Summit organizers are excited to announce the participation of ‘leaders in the field’, building business and community through the promotion and development of urban agriculture in Toronto and around the world. Here are a few of our featured presenters …
Will is recognized at the preeminent practitioner of urban agriculture in America and throughout the world, and in 2010 was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 World’s Most Influential People.
A former pro basketball player and corporate sales and marketing professional, it was Will’s lifelong exposure to farming - from sharecropper’s son to market gardener in Belgium to small farm operator – and the chance to work the last tract of land zoned for agriculture within the city Milwaukee that steered him in the ultimate direction his life would take. When in 1993 young people from the neighbourhood surrounding Will’s 3 acre urban farm started asking him how to grow their own vegetables, Will transformed into teacher, trainer and organizer of Youth Corps, a program that continues today. Will eventually established Growing Power in 1995, a not-for-profit centre for urban agriculture training and building community food security systems.
Growing Power is involved in over 70 projects and outreach programs across the United States and around the world. Will was a recent visitor to the White House, where alongside First Lady Michelle Obama he launched her ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity. Despite his busy schedule as an international ambassador for urban agriculture and universal food security, he continues to farm his own property in a suburb of Milwaukee and direct operations at Growing Power.
Paul Lightfoot is the CEO of BrightFarms, which finances, builds and operates greenhouse farms at supermarkets, cutting time, distance and cost from the produce supply chain. Improving supply chains comes naturally to Paul, who spent nearly 10 years as the CEO of an enterprise software company that improved the supply chains of major retailers and their suppliers. Paul is passionate about local food and reducing the environmental impact of the produce supply chain.
With over 30 years of experience as an architect and urban designer, Joe has a broad range of experience on public and private developments with particular emphasis on urban design, adaptive reuse and the non-profit sector. In 2006, he joined DTAH as a partner with the merger of his practice Joe Lobko Architect, and in the same year he received an urban leadership award from the Canadian Urban Institute and became a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Volunteer efforts include serving on the Board of Directors for ArtsBuild Ontario, past chair of the Toronto Society of Architects, and as a current member of the City of Toronto Design Review Panel.
Notable award-winning projects include leading the design of renewal and restoration projects such as Artscape Wychwood Barns and Evergreen Brick Works; the planning and urban design of Waterfront Toronto’s West Don Lands community (with UDA); the L’Arche Dayspring Chapel; Artscape’s first legal live/work project in Toronto; the competition-winning Sims Square office building adjacent to Burlington’s City Hall; and the Fort York Transitional Residence.
Erika Allen, Chicago and National Projects Director, Growing Power Inc. (Chicago, IL)
In her role as Chicago and National Projects Director for Growing Power, the nationally acclaimed non-profit organization and land trust founder by her father Will Allen, Erika works to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe, and affordable food, especially in disadvantaged communities. She helps food producers of limited resources strengthen their farm businesses and work in partnerships to create healthy and diverse food options in inner city and rural communities.
Based in Chicago, Erika successfully convinced Chicago City Council and the Mayor to open up urban agriculture with their jurisdiction, resulting in North America’s most progressive urban agriculture zoning ordinance as part of a larger food planning effort currently in development, Healthy Food Chicago. A multi-award-winning dynamo, Erika is co-chair of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council, and was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn in 2008 to the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force.