He was recently profiled in the New York Times Sunday Magazine- it’s a fascinating story and you can read it here. There’s also an interesting Q & A with him posted on the American Horticultural Society’s website
Allen was in town to deliver the keynote presentation at the American Horticultural Society’s 17th Annual National Children and Youth Garden Symposium hosted by Cleveland Botanical Garden, July 23 – 25. He used the occasion to meet some of CBG’s Green Corps participants and visit three learning gardens where they work. The training program for urban teenagers, which fosters food growing and entrepreneurial skills and environmental stewardship, is right up Allen’s alley.
I got to tag along as he toured the Yellow House site at Chester and E.66th. He chatted with the teens who were showing off their berry bushes, pepper and tomato plants, beds of kale and carrots, honey boxes, and compost bins, asking questions and giving them advice. Then we had lunch on the porch, dipping chips into bowls of Ripe from Downtown Salsa, one of the products Green Corps kids make and sell at area farmers markets and grocery stores. “This is good stuff,” he said, “very, very good.” And it was clear to me he was talking about much more than what we were eating.
Afterwards we drove to the Fairfax garden at E.79th, a place where three abandoned houses once stood, and the Lonnie Burten “farmstead” at East 46th and Quincy. Allen was all smiles, calling these spots “places of inspiration.” He sees value and opportunity in the vacant weed filled lots and boarded up buildings that are endemic to so many city neighborhoods. So do the Botanical Garden’s Green Corps staff, students, and volunteers. Given enough time and support, people like this are convinced that urban agriculture has the potential to generate economic activity and jobs, make wholesome food readily available to all, and create something less tangible but equally important- hope.