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Behind the Rise and Fall of Growing Power

Growing Power’s Milwaukee farm. (Photo credit: Will Allen)

The urban farming powerhouse had a global reputation. Then, it collapsed last year under mounting debt, prompting big questions about what happened and what comes next.

By Stephen Satterfield
Civil Eats


People close to the organization were saddened by the news of its dissolution, but many were not surprised. As far back as 2014, the Chicago chapter of Growing Power had begun to move toward independent accounting and funding strategies. Warning signs about Growing Power’s financial health were embedded in its mandatory annual filings and felt by its vendors.

And despite Allen’s passion and dedication, he may have suffered from a bit of founder’s syndrome. Fisher theorizes that Allen’s inability to empower and retain an operational management team was the main cause of the organization’s collapse.

“Will centralized all the power in himself, but he was never around. It became dysfunctional,” Fisher said. “They tried to at times bring in others to run day-to-day operations so Will could have a more outward-facing role, but that person would resign and inevitably they’d go back to the old system.”

Erika Allen, who has reorganized the Chicago chapter of Growing Power as Urban Growers Collective (UGC), also noted an inadequate composition of board members as a vulnerability of the organization. “There were weaknesses on the board. A little analysis would’ve exhibited the losses, and that the nonprofit needed to run more like a business,” she said.

Read the complete article here.