By DOUG GRAVES
WILMINGTON, Ohio — The fourth annual Food Symposium at Wilmington College March 20 (this evening) will delight most growers who are looking for additional avenues for their fruits and vegetables. In addition, growers will get a glimpse of food systems to come.
This year’s theme is “Foodscapes: Cultivating a Community Food System for the Future.” Keynote speaker at this year’s event will be Will Allen, former NBA basketball player, urban farmer and founder and CEO of Growing Power, an urban gardening initiative based out of Milwaukee, Wis.
“Allen’s Growing Power organization offers workshop on how to grow, process, market and distribute food, and he has established community food centers in rural and urban areas across the country,” said Michael Snarr, professor of social and political studies at Wilmington College.
“He will discuss his role in facilitating community food systems that are designed to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.”
According to Snarr, attendees will be entertained by Allen’s attention-getting talk, “but more importantly, they will learn from Allen’s successes, and how he was able to create urban gardens in Milwaukee. He will appeal to a broad range of people, especially anyone interested in using innovative ways to feed people.”
Allen’s main two-acre Community Food Center in Milwaukee is small compared to the average local farm in Clinton County, Ohio, but it houses: six greenhouses, two aquaponic hoop houses, seven conventional hoop houses for plants, a worm depository, an apiary with 14 beehives, three poultry hoop houses, outdoor pens for goats, turkeys and chickens, an anaerobic digester to produce energy from farm wastes and a rainwater catchment system.
“I am first a farmer, and I do like nothing better than to get my hands into good, rich soil and sow the seeds of hope,” Allen said. “To some people I am a food philosopher.”
Snarr, a member of the Food Symposium Planning Committee, said the symposium gets under way at 1 p.m. and a panel of four speakers in the McCoy Building on campus is another highlight at this year’s event. The topic for this panel is “Gaps in the Food Chain: From Production to Distribution to Consumption.”
Panelists for this will include Dr. Jeff Sharp, professor of rural sociology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University; Ron Williams, local food coordinator at the Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton; Jon Branstrator, local food producer and distributor from Clarksville; and Kurt Reiber, DEO and president of Freestory Foodbank in Cincinnati.
Allen’s talk will be at 2:30 p.m. at Heiland Theatre on campus.
The Food Symposium is free and open to the public. For more information about this event, contact Corey Cockerill at Wilmington College, 937-382-6661, ext. 302.