At Fort Valley State University’s greenhouse complex April 2, Will Allen (far left) of Growing Power Inc.
explains how to create good-quality soil using worms, which can add nutrients.
April 12, 2013 – Will Allen, once a professional athlete, says it’s harder to survive as a sustainable agriculturalist than as a basketball player. Over the years, he’s developed farming techniques that many people want to hear about firsthand. One of Allen’s latest stops was Fort Valley State University.
On April 2 – 3, Allen conducted hands-on training. He also addressed students and led workshops in the Pettigrew Center. He discussed several topics, including using hoop houses to extend the growing seasons of produce, creating rich soil with worms, producing mushrooms, raising fish indoors and growing vegetables without using chemicals. Throughout his presentations, he emphasized maximizing space, money and resources. He also discussed creating niche markets to increase profits.
“What we’re trying to teach folks is how to do things low-tech and not spend a lot of money,” Allen said. “Everything in Ag has been done before, but what makes it cool is if you can put your own spin on it.”
Allen, who’s been leading the nonprofit Growing Power Inc. for 20 years, says he has 140 employees and more than 70 initiatives ranging from youth programs to produce delivery to communities.
“We’re going back to the days where food used to be local,” Allen told a crowd of more than 50 students. “So we have to get back to those days where there was healthy food inside communities.”
Lawana Mills is working with her church members to provide fresh produce, and eventually fish, to her community in Dougherty County through a church effort. She attended the workshops with a few congregation members. Their Trumpet of God Ministries and Training Center has started Healthy Living Farms on 11 usable acres in Albany. Their mission is to stimulate economic development and provide a source of healthy and nutritious food.
“Part of our initial vision of how we wanted the farm to go was based on some of the work that Mr. Allen had done. We searched for him online. We had nor actually been to Milwaukee or had the opportunity to meet him, so this is a wonderful opportunity for us,” Mills said.
The church group got the idea of raising fish from Allen, Mills said, and they are exploring the idea of vertical farming, which would help maximize their space.
Dr. Mark Latimore Jr. led the efforts for Allen’s visit. As the university’s interim assistant vice president for land-grant affairs, he established a relationship with Allen a few years ago. FVSU faculty and staff have since visited Milwaukee, Wis., where Growing Power is based. They learned, and have implemented, some of his methods at the agricultural institution.
The partnership also allows for Allen to interact with students and discuss the future of agriculture. Latimore said he was pleased with the turnout, particularly among students. They seemed to identify with Allen’s efforts, he said, to revitalize communities by injecting “urban farms” into them and engaging the youth in the creation of the Growing Power initiatives.
“The thing that excited me the most was seeing how engaged the students were in the work that Growing Power is doing throughout the country,” Latimore said. “I think the students were able to see themselves and their communities through Growing Power.”
Fort Valley State University
College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology