May 15, 2009
This week, NRDC presented a Growing Green award to Will Allen, Founder and CEO of the Growing Power National Training and Community Food Center in Milwaukee. Feeding an estimated 10,000 people from urban farms in Wisconsin and Illinois, Growing Power combines aquaculture and agriculture to provide fish and fresh vegetables to communities living in urban food deserts. The program works in a closed loop by collecting waste from tilapia to serve as fertilizer for the produce.
At the heart of Growing Power is their youth corps program, which teaches young people, as Allen says, “how to grow the soil, how to grow the food, how to harvest, wash and package food, and how to eat it.” Allen himself was son of a sharecropper who left the South but wanted to be sure his sons knew how to farm. After a pro-basketball career and sales work, Allen returned to farming with the purchase of a two-acre lot in Milwaukee.
“The biggest challenge in engaging the community is because most of the people are people of color and immigrants who’ve been subjected to bad things around agriculture,” Allen says, adding, “These are people who have the skills, but they’ve been burned.” Still, he knows where the communities advantages are: “We have all of this land in rust belt cities…we just have to be creative and have a few dollars to equip people to be creative.”
When we caught up with Will Allen, he provided us with two simple, flavorful recipes that are favorites of his: fried tilapia and stir-fried collard greens.
Fried Tilapia (or Lake Perch)
Serves 2 to 6 people
1 whole 1 to 1½ pound tilapia per person
1 cup milk
Flour (and/or bread crumbs)
Scale and clean fish
Mix 6 eggs with a cup of milk into a batter in a large bowl
Soak fish in egg-and-milk batter for 10 to 15 minutes
Mix corn meal and flour in equal portions (for extra crispiness you can use bread crumbs and flour—or all three)
Roll fish in corn meal-flour mix, shaking off excess
Heat ½-inch canola oil in a large, cast-iron skillet
Fry fish on medium heat for 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side).
Stir-Fried Collard Greens
Serves 2 to 4 people
1 to 2 pounds collard Greens
3 tablespoons olive oil (or equal amounts butter and olive oil)
Salt and pepper
Thoroughly wash collard greens
Roll up greens and dice them
Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add diced greens
Salt and pepper to taste (you can also add a little honey)
Stir fry for about 15 minutes (less if you prefer them crunchier)
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