Farming expert shares knowledge at Fort Valley State

awoolen@macon.comApril 10, 2013 

FORT VALLEY -- Inside Fort Valley State University’s Pettigrew Center last week, Will Allen showed pictures of the hoop houses at his farm in Milwaukee, Wis.

Allen, chief executive officer of Growing Power, attributed his yield of thousands of pounds of vegetables to hoop houses (tunnels that act like greenhouses), constant watering and his own soil, which he made using a worm compost

He visited the university April 2-3 to share his knowledge with farmers and others interested in agriculture.

Allen was named one of Time magazine’s top 100 most influential people in 2010. His company, Growing Power, is a nonprofit that aims to help “provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities,” according to its website. It often does this through outreach.

Fort Valley State is a regional center for Growing Power, a designation Mark Latimore Jr., interim assistant vice president for land grant affairs, hopes to expand upon in the coming years.

Latimore said the university’s partnership with Allen has been ongoing for several years. Students and farmers had an opportunity to visit his company headquarters last summer and learned about the hoop houses and also how to do a worm compost.

The partnership also will provide Fort Valley State students an opportunity to intern at the Wisconsin headquarters.

“The thing that excited me most was how engaged our students were,” said Latimore.

During his two-day visit to Fort Valley, Allen gave Power Point presentations as well as hands-on demonstrations at the university’s greenhouses.

“It is all about the soil,” Allen said.

He is a big advocate of the hoop house, which he uses at several of his locations.

His program provided 250,000 pounds of carrots for the Milwaukee school system last year.

Allen told an audience of about 50 farmers and students to keep practicing to be able to get better at growing.

“Any kind of farming is an art form,” he said during one of his presentations.

Allen reminded those present that learning how to farm is about repetition.

The process of growing food isn’t going to be learned in just two days or even a year.

“Farming is the one profession that will keep you humble,” he said.

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