Common Read author stops by

By Sara Bertsch Lifestyles Editor

Dressed to impress in a sweatshirt, jeans and baseball hat, Will Allen spoke to a packed crowd at the Performing Arts Center on Oct. 27. 

Allen, author of this year’s common read The Good Food Revolution, featured an unbelievably long powerpoint presentation to the large crowd. He boasted that nobody has seen a presentation as long as his, featuring over 1,000 slides that he would attempt to go through in 45 minutes. Allen accomplished his goal and much more. 

He thanked the crowd for allowing him to speak, but it was the university that was thanking him.

Tim Nichols, dean of the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, welcomed everyone to the program and displayed his thankfulness for Allen’s presence on campus.

“All our welcome to this very special night at SDSU…” Nichols said. “Allen’s story has resignated across campus and the community.”

Allen was presented with a token of appreciation. His token was a Lakota Star quilt, handmade by Doris Giago, a recently retired professor of SDSU’s Journalism and Mass Communications department.

Allen was introduced by Laurie Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs. She said she found that Allen’s book took her back to her younger days of growing up on a farm. She provided the audience with some of Allen’s background and then they cut into a short video about Allen. Finally, it was Allen’s time to address the audience. 

“I love speaking at colleges because this generation of students are really going to be the ones that change our food system, change America, and change the world into a better place for all of us to live,” Allen said. “Unfortunately my generation did not pass on what we should have passed on to you all.”

He then featured his extremely long powerpoint that contained mostly pictures from his experiences as an urban farmer. 

Allen is the founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc. It is a not-for-profit center for urban agriculture training and building community food security systems. There were several photos of specific plants and gardens. Allen explained that it’s important everyone knows where their food comes from.

“Inside most cities today, people have no access to good food,” Allen said. “There’s no way for us to know how nutritious our food is.”

One major point that Allen shares with the crowd is the importance of soil. He strongly believes in resurrecting the soil that has been destroyed. 

“If we didn’t compost, we couldn’t farm,” Allen said.

The entire presentation focused on the many innovative methods of composting, vermicomposting and aquaponics practiced by the company. Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to refine and fertilize compost and aquaponics is the practice of growing fish and food plants in a closed system.

Allen refers to the billions of worms as his “other employees” that don’t talk back and play a crucial part in their job as well. Some of the worms even live over 20 years.

“Those are sustainable worms,” Allen said.

The company has a specific screening process for the worms that allows them to crawl through a screen into fresh compost. This causes reproduction to be four times better than average. 

With over 1,000 slides in his presentation, Allen covered several topics including the numerous hoop houses they have, their training they provide, the importance of the up-and-coming kale crop and much more.

Allen’s stories and explanations always brought him back to Milwaukee, Wis. where it all began. He now travels the world to share his ideas. He most recently returned from western Ukraine, which was known as the ‘breadbasket of Europe.’

At the end of his talk, the crowd was allowed a question and answer session. Immediately, Allen was hit with a hard question from a student: What is the most important message you want our campus to receive?

“There are so many things. I’d have to say for students, don’t just take things for granted,” Allen said. “Know where your food comes from. It’s all about how long you’ll survive and what you put in your body.”