I was so excited when a friend let me borrow this book, I read it from cover to cover in three days! I've been a fan of Will Allen ever since I first heard about his Growing Power project in Milwaukee (which just happens to be where my Mom was born and raised, and where I went to college - so I can picture just where he's writing about).
This book is meant to be a biography of Allen and his project, primarily explaining why they're doing what they're doing, and to inspire others to follow his example. His main goal is to find new ways to bring good food to people who may not be able to get it (specifically African Americans and other minorities in poor inner city neighborhoods).
So, much of the book wasn't exactly aimed at a white woman living in very rural northern Wisconsin, but I am excited about some of his practical ideas for raising food in a small amount of space. I'm very intrigued, for example, by his aquaculture set-up (he raises talapia in a long, thin tank down the center of one of his greenhouses, then filters the water the fish have (*ahem*) fertilized through a bed of tomato plants, after which the cleaned water is cycled back to the fish in a completely closed system (I'm sure I didn't get that exactly right, but you can look at the Growing Power website for more information).
Another idea I found interesting was his use of hoophouses, specifically his success raising chickens and winter spinach in the same hoophouse (the chickens keep the air warm enough so that the greens don't freeze; if you make sure there is enough carbon material (Joel Salatin's "Carbonacious Diaper") to balance the "clucker muck" (that's my term for chicken poop), the ammonia won't build up enough to damage the plants.) I would really love to try this idea this winter! I'm thinking of a setup where half of the hoophouse would be chicken coop, and the other side cold frames filled with vegetables (as detailed in Eliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook). The second year, I would simply reverse what goes where, so that the vegetables would benefit from the well-rotted chicken fertilizer, and the chickens can clean up the old garden beds. When the chickens move out onto their summer pasture, I can raise tomato transplants in the sheltered hoophouse.
Allen is also a big proponent of vermicomposting - using worms to break down food waste and turn it into valuable fertilizer. I would like to combine his ideas with those in Harvey Ussery's book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock and have a combination fertilizer/chicken feed bin incorporated into the floor of my winter hoophouse.
There are so many interesting ideas in this book (although I should caution that it's not a how-to book; there are no specific plans for his hoophouses or aquaculture systems). I found it so inspirational - I can't wait to start growing more food for our family (and hopefully someday for others as well).