Will Allen grew up on a small farm in Southern California. He served in the Marine Corps. After the Marine Corps, Will attended Valley Junior College and the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he received his BA in Anthropology.
He received a fellowship at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and received his PhD in Anthropology in 1968, studying tropical forest farmers in Peru. Will taught at the University of Illinois and later at the University of California. He began farming organically in the Santa Barbara area in 1968. He was sentenced to a year in jail for anti-war and civil rights activism in 1971.
He began farming organically in southern Oregon in 1972. He moved back to California in 1973 and farmed in San Luis Obispo County. He founded Ganesha Growers in 1977 and was one of the first organic farmers in the San Joaquin Valley until 1989. He served on the board of CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) for several years and helped write the first organic handbook for CCOF. He served on the board and conference committee of the Ecological Farming Association for a dozen years. In 1989 he moved to Santa Barbara and managed Fairview Farms for two years.
Will founded the Sustainable Cotton Project in 1990 to help farmers learn how to grow organic cotton, convince garment makers to use organic fibers, and reduce farmworker pesticide injuries. SCP convinced Patagonia, Esprit, Levis, Marks and Spencer, Nike, and other garment makers to use organic fibers.
He resigned from SCP in 2003 to manage Cedar Circle Farm, in East Thetford, Vt. with his wife Kate Duesterberg. Cedar Circle is a production, teaching, and activist farm. A major focus at the farm is on children and their diets. We regularly host dozens of farm tours for children each year and several for adults. One of our activist efforts resulted in the creation of a coalition for labeling GMO products in Vermont. We were successful, and Vermont became the first state in the US to pass a GMO labeling law.
Kate and Will were involved in the formation of Regeneration International in 2014 and remain active in the organization.