In response to his call on a packed hall at the NC State University McKimmon Center to join in the revolution for good food, Will Allen received a standing ovation from the crowd more than 500 strong.
Allen, who transforms communities by encouraging them to grow good food, delivered the 2009 Sustainable Agriculture Lecture for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
After introductions from John O’Sullivan of CEFS and NC A&T and NC State University Agriculture Department Dean Johnny Wynne, Allen gave a 90-minute talk – much of it centered on a 600-photo presentation of his work in Milwaukee with Growing Power.
Allen described how he purchased a 2-acre farm and greenhouse tract near the city’s downtown and began working with youth to rebuild the farm. As he built connections in the community and encouraged youth in a network of programs, Allen went into a food dessert area of the city and opened a food co-op and reclaimed crime ridden neighborhoods with flower plantings and gardens installed by area youth.
Allen noted that to grow good food requires good soil. And he began to develop his own by composting – gathering coffee grounds, beer making residues, spoiled foods. Four pallets were nailed together, lined with mesh wire and filled with the collected wastes and worms. Throughout his talk, Allen sang the praises of the work of the worms in providing the soil needed to cover the damaged worn out land and provide the fertility needed for plant growth.
Allen’s operations now include green houses that use worms, talapia pools and five levels of plantings to maximize the use of space and nutrients. He also builds relationships with youth and neighborhood leaders, as well as business, corporate and government leaders.
Allen offers workshops to teach folks his methods. He took pride in the diversity of ethnicity and ages that participate in the workshops. He said when people leave, they are inspired to do something.
Allen took issue with industrial food production saying the system has “led us down the wrong road.” He said we’ve lost much farmland and many farmers. He said his system shows a possible way to move forward to grow food more intensively and to feed people where they are. He said people want locally grown, healthy food and there is no excuse not to provide it in every community.
“Being in North Carolina I’ve felt more welcome than any place I’ve been before,” said Allen. “This is Tobacco Road and I am a University of Miami Hurricane. We’re in the ACC now.”
Allen was born in SC, grew up in Maryland and played basketball in college and later in Europe before settling in Milwaukee.
While in NC, Allen visited Goldsboro to see the Wayne County Food Initiative. Youth from the Goldsboro program, as well as youth working with the Interfaith Food Shuttle community gardens were introduced at the end of Allen’s talk and were applauded by the crowd and Allen.
“There is a new generation of young people joining what I call the food revolution,” said Allen. “What’s in this room tonight is a testimony to that.”
- Will Allen: It’s time for action – Sustainable Grub
- Giant Hearted Genius Will Allen Dwarfs Raleigh – Bountiful Backyards
- Farmer brings a message on food – News and Observer
- Will Allen@McKimmon Center – Interfaith Food Shuttle
- Farmer pushes children to seek healthy eating – Goldsboro News Argus (subscription required)