Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table
written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin; illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin
2013 (Readers to Eaters Books)
Source: Orange County Library
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Speaking about his childhood, Will Allen said "We never had a car or a TV, but we always had good food. My mother often fixed enough food for thirty." Growing food was an important part of Will's young life, even though he didn't like the hard work of pulling weeds. As an adult, Will was a basketball player who spent time playing professionally in Belgium. A friend in Belgium asked him to help dig potatoes one day and he rediscovered how much he enjoyed growing food and sharing it. After finishing his basketball career, Will worked in Wisconsin in an office job and also found time to grow vegetables on his in-law's land. Wanting to find his own place, Will found a plot of land in Milwaukee that had six empty greenhouses. Could you grow food in a city where the soil was filled with chemicals and pollution? Through the use of composting, volunteers, and red wiggler worms, Will's city farm became a success after years of experimenting. Will went on to share his story and start farms around the globe.
There are so many great themes that can be discussed with this book. Volunteerism, determination, and making the most of what you have, are some of the big ideas that flow from Will Allen's work. This is a terrific book that you can share as part of an Earth Day unit or as part of a unit on character traits. I also need to mention the excellent illustrations. I really liked the background colors used by Eric-Shabazz Larkin. February is a time where many teachers like to plan biography units. Will Allen would be a great subject to share with your students.