Last updated on July 2, 2019 at 09:20
City farmer and longtime Growing Power leader Will Allen is launching a new venture into the growing industrial hemp market.
Based in Oak Creek, Will Allen’s Beyond Organic manufactures USDA-certified organic products, including CBD oil, lotions, soaps, dog treats and protein powder.
everyone isestablishes and manages non-profit urban agriculture Growing Power for 23 years before the board decided to disband the organization in the fall of 2017. Since then, Allen has been working to start his new business, which features a thriving cannabis market, using certified organic hemp seeds in certified organic soil.
Alan grows hemp on his Oak Creek farm and has two employees, he said.
Wisconsin lawmakers first approved the use of CBD oil in 2013 under limited circumstances for those with seizures, but the permissible uses were expanded in 2017 to include certain medical conditions certified by a doctor. Also in 2017, Wisconsin lawmakers approved the creation of a pilot program for industrial hemp production.
Alan registered to grow hemp shortly after the law was passed in 2017, but he took the time to get to know the plant.
“Before I do something, I always want to research to make sure I know how to do it,” Allen said. “I took the time to learn about the plant and decided to make some hemp oil with the plants I had.”
As a particularly absorbent plant used to restore the soil, hemp extracts chemicals and toxins from the soil in which it is grown. That’s why it’s important for consumers to use CBD, produced and grown from organic hemp seed in organic soil, Alan said.
“You really have to be careful; “If you go into a store, you have to know where it comes from and where it’s raised,” Alan said.
Allen sells Will Allen’s Beyond Organic products online and at community hemp workshops. Allen also works with psychiatric health care providers to offer CBD products as an option for treating patients. He said CBD products are useful for a variety of conditions, ranging from anxiety to arthritis to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s a natural remedy for common diseases,” he said. “Personally, I know he helped me with arthritis … I’m trying to educate the community about it without putting it in people’s throats.”
Allen believes the new venture is a continuation of his lifelong work of connecting communities with fresh, local food.
“It’s a different way to improve people’s health,” he said. “If you eat organic vegetables and use CBD, it’s a combination of these two concepts to help people.”
Allen envisions opportunities for others in the community to set up indoor greenhouses in abandoned buildings, especially in downtown Milwaukee. He wants to serve as a consultant for those who want to build growing systems.
“Milwaukee is an ideal city for that because of the number of old empty buildings we have, like in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor,” Allen said.
Allen, a former professional basketball player and corporate marketing specialist, ran a for-profit business, Will’s Roadside Farms, from 1993 to 1995, when the operation became a nonprofit, Growing Power.
Throughout his career, he received national recognition for his leadership in the urban agriculture movement, including receiving a $ 500,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2008, joining First Lady Michelle Obama in her Yes I’m moving! Campaign in 2010 and the same year was named one of the “100 most influential people in the world” by Time magazine.
However, growing financial concerns prompted the Growing Power board to disband the corporation in late 2017.
Allen owned the organization’s headquarters at 5500 W. Silver Spring Dr. in northern Milwaukee from 1993 to 2014, when he sold it aboard the former organization. A new business, Ultimate Farm Collaborative Inc., has since taken over the site with plans to create a collaboration for farmers. Alan said he continues to be involved in this work.