from civileats.com: When his mother left their sharecropping land in South Carolina, there were 900,000 farms in the U.S. operated by African Americans. Now here he was, about to become one of the 18,000 that do so today. That 98 percent drop, he seems to have concluded, might be a part of the reason that the urban landscapes are so blighted, that wholesome food is so scarce in these food deserts, that one in two African American kids born after the year 2000 will develop type II diabetes, and that 40 percent of African Americans over 20 years old already have high blood pressure. His farm market became a magnet–a community center–where Allen had designed a program for the area youth to find employment and training through repairing and maintaining his greenhouses. From that seed of an idea grew what they’ve come to call an “Idea Factory,” and the food and farm-related programs that blossomed include: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, permaculture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth education, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning. The secret to Allen’s success, and the success of his mission, is something he calls “A World Without Fences.” When people told him he needed to erect fences to protect the center’s garden, he said: “No, you don’t. You have to do the harder work of engaging the community. You’ve got to make sure the neighbors know that the garden is their own, not yours.” When neighborhood kids threw rocks at his greenhouses, he didn’t chase them off–he invited them in.
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