Indiana State University Newsroom

Athlete-turned-farmer to headline regional sustainability event

August 20, 2014

What do a basketball great and Indiana State University have in common?

Come Sept. 12, the only answer to that question won't be a 1979 trip to the NCAA championship.

Nope, it'll be building sustainable food systems when retired pro basketball player Will Allen -- and founder of "Growing Power" -- headlines the Mid-America Prosperity and Security (MAPS) Conference in Terre Haute.

"Over the past century, we allowed our agriculture to become more and more industrialized, more and more reliant on unsustainable practices and much more distant from the source to the consumer," Allen said. "When drought strikes that valley in California, as is happening right now, things start to topple. And when the whole economy shatters, the security of a nation's food supply teeters on the brink of failure."

MAPS is a regional group, created at a conference at Purdue University in December, to promote ideas and opportunities for innovative economic development based on the principles of sustainability.

It's a huge honor for Indiana State to take a leadership role this year, said Caroline Savage, interim executive director of the university's Institute for Community Sustainability.

"It reflects positively not only on (the institute), but also Indiana State," Savage said. "There are a lot of great things going on in Terre Haute, and we're excited to show people that so they can take part and help those efforts take off."

Hosted by the Institute for Community Sustainability, the event is free and open to the public, although registration is required by Monday, Sept. 8. Go to

Conference topics include community health, economic development, green energy, regenerative agriculture, smart growth and sustainability research. Indiana State students will also be presenting their recent research projects and findings.

A reception will welcome attendees, 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Indiana State Community Garden House. Sessions start at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Organizers encourage attendees to come for the conference and stay for the Blues at the Crossroads Festival, which is Friday night and Saturday afternoon - or vice-versa.

"It was sort of an accident (that the two events are in the same weekend), but it's a happy accident," Savage said.

While researchers and academics are likely to make up most of the participants, Savage said she'd like to see an interdisciplinary mix -- businesses, civic leaders, farmers and landowners, military personnel -- to accurately reflect how multi-faceted the field of sustainability is.

All voices are required to solve today's environmental problems and to plan for the future, she said.

"What is happening is that many vulnerable people, especially in the large cities where most of us live, are being forced to buy cheaper and lower-quality foods, to forgo fresh fruits and vegetables or are relying on food programs ... that by necessity distribute any kind of food they can afford, good for you or not," Allen said. "And this is coming to haunt us in health care and social costs. No, we are not suddenly starving to death; we are slowly but surely malnourishing ourselves to death."


Photos: -- Will Allen, founder of "Growing Power," a nonprofit that seeks to help communities build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound. -- Will Allen, founder of "Growing Power," a nonprofit that seeks to help communities build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound.

Contact: Caroline Savage, interim executive director of the Institute for Community Sustainability at Indiana State, 812-232-8502 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

The Institute for Community Sustainability is hosting the the Mid-America Prosperity and Security (MAPS) Conference on Sept. 12. The event is free, but registration is required by Sept. 8.

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