Will Allen grew up on a small farm in Southern California. He served in 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, where he earned 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, continued in southern Oregon and in San Luis Obispo County in the early 70s. He founded Ganesha Growers in 1977 and was one of the first organic farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. He served on the board of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) 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. Will founded the Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP) 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.
In 2000, he took over the management of Cedar Circle Farm, in East Thetford, Vermont along with his wife Kate Duesterberg. Their activist efforts resulted in the creation of a coalition for labeling GMO products in Vermont. They were successful, and Vermont became the first state in the US to pass a GMO labeling law in 2014.
Will’s first book, The War on Bugs, was published by Chelsea Green in 2008.