Jan 112013

Today I headed out to the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, otherwise known as ACEnet, to help Constantine and Alyse package Athens’ Own products. Alyse explained that ACEnet is a business incubator; in other words, they help support and assist other businesses in their endeavors. There are multiple ways in which they accomplish this goal, and one such way is to provide each business with a storage area, should they choose to rent one. They also provide an expansive community kitchen where local businesses can prepare, package, and create products. Athens’ Own’s involvement with ACEnet did not surprise me; it was, after all, yet another way Athens’ Own and other local businesses helped support one another, creating an expansive web of community connections along the way.


When we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the multitude of people present in the building. Welcoming smiles, containers of supplies, an array of domestic and exotic smells, and the quiet buzz of conversation filled the room. I was eager to get started. Alyse showed me our storage area, and we began to transport needed materials into the kitchen. We were sharing the kitchen that day with Crumbs Bakery, whose employees were both boisterous and high-spirited. That, paired with the delicious smells wafting from the oven, created an enjoyable working environment. As the Crumbs workers continued to create crackers and other baked goods, Alyse and I began to stamp Athens’ Own coffee bags. One of the great things about these bags, Alyse explained, is that they are recyclable and the inside plastic liner is compostable. This, of course, is yet another example of Constantine’s ability to maximize the life of his products while additionally preserving the environment itself.


After stamping all two hundred-sum bags (with minor hand cramps along the way) we then turned our attention to labeling them. While we were working, Alyse and Constantine spoke briefly about the price of different labels in relation to their effectiveness, among many other business-related topics. Because I am a public health and communication major, it is seldom that I gain first-hand knowledge of how the business world operates. Thus, it was interesting to see how public health, communication, and business have the ability to merge together to create a single entity like Athens’ Own.


After labeling the bags, Alyse and I then proceeded to weigh and fill them with both ground and whole bean coffee.  As we ground the coffee, Alyse explained the difference between the variety of coffees we sell. She showed me the differences in color; the dark coffee (French Roast) is a much darker color than the light coffee (Full City Roast), due to the greasiness of the bean itself. This is why, she explained, Athens’ Own always grinds the lightest coffee first, so as to avoid mixing this grease in with the lighter beans. She also explained that Athens’ Own only sells their flavored coffee, Highlander Grogg and Hazelnut, in bean form, as grinding and packaging them takes away from their overall flavor. By both understanding and harnessing the flavors of the beans, Athens’ Own works to always serve up the best cup of coffee to customers.


By the end of the day, Alyse and I had packaged coffee, hot spiced cashews, and Constantine’s pancake and waffle mix. In only a matter of hours, I learned an incredible amount of information in regards to Athens’ Own products and the business as a whole. To me, one of the impressive aspects of my internship with Athens’ Own is having the ability to learn about a different aspect of the business every day. I had now experienced and gained knowledge about Jackie O’s grain process, the Broadwell Learning Center, the Athens Farmers Market, and ACEnet in only a few days, and I look forward to learning much more in the future.


– Emma Buchanan, Athens’ Own Intern

Jan 072013

Today I headed out to the Athens Farmer’s Market to help Constantine and others at the Athens’ Own booth. By the time I showed up, the Farmer’s Market had just begun, and both Alyse and Constantine did their best to catch me up on their processes on market day. Sweet beef bologna, hot spiced cashews, pickled peppers, and Constantine’s pancake and waffle mix were all for sale, and I had the opportunity to try samples. I appreciated the spicy kick of most of his products; though it was different, it still reminded me of the Cajun seasonings used in the south. Constantine was also selling hot hamburgers and freshly made cheesy grits, with the latter being a hit, as I suspect they are every week. A little boy approached us, and his mother told us that the cheesy grits were the first thing he asked for in the morning. Others flocked to his booth for hot Dawn Chorus Coffee that he served in reused mugs. Once they were done, they brought the mug back and Constantine would wash it and serve coffee to the next person who came along. Alyse explained that one of the great features of Athens’ Own is their certification as a mobile food vendor; because of this, they are able to legally clean dishes and reuse them during market hours. This small gesture made me smile, as it showed the importance of reusing and was a small representation of the sense of community held by Athens residents.


Later in the morning, Alyse explained the differences between the coffees that Constantine was selling. The importance of their coffee is that it is fair trade, shade grown, organic, and cafe femenino certified. Fair trade, she explained, means that their coffee is purchased from farmers at a higher price, which both supports better wages and working conditions. Coffee itself is best grown under a vast expanse of trees and plants, and shade grown means that this coffee supports ecosystems by not clear-cutting, as many companies will do to grow their coffee. Organic means that the coffee is grown without pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals that disrupt the natural growth of the plant. And finally, Alyse explained, cafe femenino supports women in coffee producing countries by supplying them with better jobs and education, among other things. I was both impressed and shocked that a tiny bag of Dawn Chorus Coffee positively influences such a broad array of social and environmental inequalities.


By the time the Farmer’s Market ended, I couldn’t feel my feet, but it was worth it to brave the cold and I was already looking forward to the next time I could attend the Farmer’s Market to help. I leave for New Orleans in a week, but will assistance as much as I can from afar. I can’t wait to come back and experience Athens’ Own and the Athens community in the summertime.


-Emma Buchanan, Athens’ Own Intern

Jan 072013

Today I headed out to the Broadwell Learning Center with Alyse. The first thing I learned about the center was that it was completely off the grid. While I had learned about such buildings in theory, I had never had the opportunity to visit one personally. When we pulled up to the house, it seemed normal enough, but upon entry, I soon realized that this building was an environmentalist’s dream. Powered by solar energy, equipped with compost toilets, upcycled materials, and reused appliances, this structure was certainly sustainable. Alyse gave me a brief tour and I began to realize that every aspect of the building was closely tied to nature, as all available environmental resources were utilized. The worm composting and compost toilet in the bottom floor of the building provided the land with rich, fertile soil, and the pond near the house proved to be a useful water source. The solar panels were tilted in a perfect angle to the sun, and the rays reflected off of the ice in the pond to allow maximum solar exposure. Garlic, among many other things, was grown near the building, and was used in many of Constantine’s dishes. The building was well insulated and warm, and I soon noticed the wood-burning stove in the corner of the room. After the tour, I was both impressed and extremely intrigued.


By the time Alyse and I returned, Constantine was working on setting up a grinder that was powered by a bicycle. We sat around and discussed Athens’ Own in more depth. I helped myself to some coffee. We spoke about the changing generations, individuals’ thirst for capital and the changing work ethic in America, among other things. After drinking our cups of coffee, Alyse and I sat down and began intern training. She had me compile a list of problems that I felt existed currently and related to sustainability. We then compared my list to the list she had already created. Surprisingly, we had similar ideas, but one major difference presented itself. I forgot to add public health preparedness to my list, which is a major problem in the world today and pertains to the mission of Athens’ Own. Interestingly enough, my public health courses at Tulane focused on public health preparedness on the professional scale, but Alyse pointed out that the public themselves also lack the adequate training and tools needed to deal with disasters. This, of course, relates back to a resilient and sustainable society. Both Constantine and Alyse brought up on multiple occasions that we should think of society now as being in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Were power lines to fail and people quarantined in homes, how would they survive? One look at the Broadwell Learning Center, and one could easily tell that Constantine himself would be able to, but others may be less fortunate. The problem essentially stems from society’s inability to look ahead and prepare for any type of disaster. Constantine lamented society’s inability to perform basic household and community tasks on its own. Contrastingly, Constantine can fix a stove, won’t suffer if power failures occur, and won’t starve when the zombies (or a hurricane, tornado, or other disaster) come.


The zombie apocalypse concept was a hard one to grasp when I first learned about it, but Alyse had more tools to help me understand. We turned our attention to holistic management, another overarching value deeply imbedded in the history of Athens’ Own, and one that individuals, companies, organizations, and families alike can use. Holistic management helps us look forward (and thus is a useful tool when understanding sustainability) but does so in such a way that we have a sound framework to address our future needs. It is based primarily on looking at the bigger picture and understanding long-term ramifications. Holistic management closely ties in with FEMA’s Incident Command System (ICS), another set of concepts that addresses public health preparedness. ICS lays out a standardized and concise disaster management plan that provides jurisdictions, agencies, personnel, and individuals with an organizational structure should disaster strike. In order to fully understand this procedure and its importance to the community, Athens’ Own interns become certified in ICS 100. Though it was daunting at first, I soon realized that the certification program was both informational and interesting.


As our long day drew to an end, Alyse had me count money in preparation for the upcoming Farmer’s Market. I learned an incredible amount of information while at the Broadwell Learning Center and look forward to expanding my knowledge base tomorrow.


– Emma Buchanan, Athens’ Own Intern

Jan 072013

When I initially applied for the Athens’ Own internship I honestly had no idea what to expect. I had recently come home to Athens for Christmas break after a long semester at Tulane University and was looking forward to relaxing. Of course, this relaxation period included finding a summer internship, but that was the exciting part of my break; I was eager to reconnect with my hometown that I had dearly missed while in New Orleans. One morning after Christmas had passed, I decided to visit the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism page on the Ohio University website. As a communication major, I am always researching internships and opportunities in the Athens area, and was delighted to find an expansive and detailed list of internships currently available. The Athens’ Own internship immediately popped out at me. After scouring their webpages, I was even more thrilled. Athens’ Own is a local business focused on sustainability and resiliency, and as a public health major as well, I was familiar with these two concepts. The webpages promised that the Athens’ Own internship would differ from the typical internship experience and that learning would be inevitable. That was okay with me, as this internship opportunity bridged my passions for both journalism and public health, and I was eager to learn pertinent skills in both fields.


Later that week (today, in fact!) I finally met with Alyse, the internship coordinator for Athens’ Own. Though I had familiarized myself with their mission as best I could, I was still unsure of what to expect. We first talked about my qualifications and then began to delve into the values of Athens’ Own themselves. Alyse explained that Athens’ Own, besides focusing on creating a healthy society, was centered on supporting local businesses and creating a sense of community. Resiliency was a big part of this equation, and, as it turns out, my definition of resiliency was different than the one that they hold to be true. While resiliency is the ability to adapt to disaster or change, Alyse explained that Athens’ Own treats every day as if the disaster is happening NOW. In other words, Athens’ Own is ready for a disaster when it hits instead of reacting to it once it occurs, and they work to combat anthropogenic disasters and generate an informed community. There are multiple ways to do so, and one such way is to promote sustainability, or the ability to conserve a community’s opportunities and resources for future generations. By promoting local businesses and community involvement, and reducing, reusing, upcycling and recycling materials, Athens’ Own works every day towards this goal.


Fortunately, I got the opportunity to observe some of these practices in action. After I spoke with Alyse, we headed over to Jackie-O’s brewery, where I became acquainted with their “grain process” and met Constantine, the steward of Athens’ Own. Jackie-O’s, after using their grain to make beer, gives the spent grain to Athens’ Own to distribute to local businesses for compost and livestock food. Alyse even mentioned that some was used on Jackie-O’s pizza! I found it fascinating that every aspect of the grain’s life cycle is utilized to benefit locals and the environment at large. So far I am enjoying learning about their processes and I have met some great people. I still have much to learn and I can’t wait to work the Farmer’s Market and learn about the methods out in Steward. I only have two weeks before I head back to New Orleans, but I’ll soak up as much information as I can while I’m here.


– Emma Buchanan, Athens’ Own Intern