Apr 262013

The Athens Farmers Market on Saturday is the social event of the week. The smell of food cooking and the joyful sounds of music compliment the local farmers, producers, and distributors that gather together twice a week on East State Street. The bell opens the market at 10:00 for three hours. The excitement is inspired from the abundance of local organic food, plants, soap, candles, and art for sale. It is enchanting to see a mindful community unite with smiles on their faces as they exchange money, goods, compassion and information. As their baskets and cloth bags become full the support for the local economy grows and the potential for expanding the quality of life in the community continues. The local political and non-profit groups allow for education, generosity, and the relevant news to flow, facilitating democracy through engagement.

Another form of democracy is actively supporting your community by buying locally.  The Athens Farmers Market is located at the mall on East State Street, named The Market on State. It is in the parking lot and is easily accessed by the highway or the bike path. Constantine Faller, owner of Athens’ Own and Faller Foods, can always be found near the far entrance of the market cooking something and smiling at everyone. In the two weeks that I have been working at Athens’ Own Constantine and his intern Miles have always cooked local beef hamburgers that have been hung to age, giving it the old fashion taste. Their menu is always changing, but so far I have had their eggs, grilled cheese, raisin oatmeal, and vegetable bean soup with rice.  Athens’ Own also sells Dawn Chorus Coffee by the bag or ceramic cup, sweet beef bologna/salami, spicy cashews, pancake/waffle mix and spicy peppers in a jar at the Athens Farmers Market. It takes an hour to prepare the food and pack the truck at the Appalachian Economic Community Network, between five to ten minutes to drive to the market, and another forty-five minutes to set up the Athens’ Own Emergency Response Mobile Field Kitchen along with the other items for sale. It is a lot of work to have a business but from what I understand is worth every minute.

Unfortunately, there is one problem that cannot be ignored at the Athens Farmers Market. The landlords of The Market on State have only given the farmers, distributors, and producers a month to month lease. A month to month lease is only acceptable to gypsies and although the vendors have canopies, they should be respected as the foundation of success and sustainability in the town. On April 6th the owners Brent Hayes and Tom Parfitt decided that they do not want politics at the market. Tom Parfitt was quoted by David DeWitt from Athens News saying, “We’re giving them space down there to sell products. We’re happy to do that. They’re welcome to do whatever they do to help farmers out. But we don’t want any political things down there, no matter what it is.” The problem became apparent when the Bill of Rights Committee was going to collect signatures for a petition to ban hydraulic fracturing from the city of Athens to twenty miles up the Hocking River at the market. Bill Hayes is partnered with two Athens County deep-shale wells and hopes to lease hundreds of acres to expand the hydraulic fracturing operations by the gas and oil companies. Therefore the Bill of Rights Committee was banned from the Athens Farmers Market as well as “ANY POLITICAL THINGS” along with them. It is laughable politics is everywhere and is in the statement itself.

What I have always found interesting about this topic is that farmers are given the choice of leasing their land to compensate for the lack of revenues that their hard work and dedication provides. One in every seven jobs in the state of Ohio is created by Agriculture, yet the struggle for food security continues. Rather than our representatives seeing the hardship, they look at the leasing of farm land as a sign of approval! No farmer wants to jeopardize their business, yet all farmers that have hydraulic fracturing or injection wells on their land or near it are risking their livelihood, inheritance, retirement, air, water and food supply.  Gas and Oil companies are not regulated under federal environmental law: The Clean Air and Water Act, The Safe Drinking Water Act, or The Superfund Act. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is not only tasked with approving gas and oil permits but they are also dependent upon the permits to fund their department. The Environmental Protection Agency is not well funded for the increasing demands. They need to be funded to staff all of their sites and conduct research, which it currently cannot do. Until real oversight is created there will be citizens petitioning, protesting, and writing to the paper. The Farmers Market is the appropriate place to be engaging the community.

The real question is where can the Farmers Market be located other than at the East Side Market? It needs to be a large area, have easy access for cars, trailers, and bicycles, the parking needs to be free, and respectful engagement with the democratic process must be allowed. It is time that the nationally recognized Athens Farmers Market be honored with a  location of their own. Until then those working at the market talk and share information so no matter what and no matter where you are, there is business as usual.



Apr 172013

The land West of the Appalachian Mountains North of the Ohio River was opened to pioneers and veterans with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Ohio became a state in 1803 and Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio was founded in 1804. Athens has historically been a town that is supported by agriculture, coal mining, millers, lumbermen, brick makers, salt boilers, iron makers and craftsmen and women producing much of its own goods and services. The University has grown to become a large contributor of knowledge, employment, and economic stimulation with the growing student population. It has always been a government of friends and neighbors.

I came here as a student four years ago, in the winter of 2009, with the goal of learning history and the environment. My first year in Athens, I worked with a local attorney and was paid to interact with the municipal and county court house every day. I studied at Ohio University and among the businesses and environmental organizations during my years as a student.  I helped to create two U.S. Congressional campaigns and a winning Supreme Court of Ohio campaign as well. During this time I learned that politics represents the Republic while the process and engagement of democracy and the freedom of choice and security is actualized within communities. The goal of all of these campaigns was to elect people without the need of raising money from corporations and organizations. It is essential that the Republic can represent the people and not industries that prioritize profits over health, the environment and future generations. I decided to move back to Athens, Ohio after traveling the state for the 2012 election to integrate further into the community. My goal is to learn more about what sustains this small resilient town and how I may break free from the influences that hurt the progress of my evolution, enlightenment and economic success.

I am a guest that wants to be of service and honor this community. I moved into a rental home four miles outside of town with two lovely ladies that I call my sisters. Both have been raised in industrial towns where coal mining is prevalent, one has always lived in Athens, Ohio. Our rental home also known as a lodge has a private lake that we have named with the joy of laughter The Victorious Vagina Lake due to the V shape. The lake was created by coal mining that was done in the 1950s-60s and the home is located at the center of the two portions. Soil was taken from a farm down the road, which has been cultivated by a family for over a hundred years, to restore the ecology of the area. We are there to appreciate, observe and expand the healing.

We learned of the history of this place as we walked down Pleasant Hill Road meeting our neighbors during the first heat wave of spring. Our neighbors train sheep dogs and horses, cultivate corn and hay, sell beef, sheep, along with compost. We are the stewards of the land that observe the robins, blue jays, blue birds, cardinals, chickadees, crows, nuthatches, finches, woodpeckers, vultures, hawks, bats, geese, doves, mockingbirds, an owl, a blue heron, etc. We understand the peepers embody the health of an ecosystem. I have counted 38 fish after a short meditation on a ledge of shale rock and have seen a turtle poking above the water as it swam by. Before the blossoms of spring we can appreciate the oak, maple, ash, buckeye, alder, pine, peach, apple and cherry trees that grace us with their generosity. The bees buzz around pollinating to our delight.

The lodge has two levels and the bottom level is rented by a Saudi-Arabian man that sings the Koran and love songs late into the evening. The home was rented by all of us fully furnished and there is a room locked with extra storage for more things along with a two car garage that holds more stuff that the owners will not use nor give away. There are five bedrooms, three and half bathrooms and six porches. The people that rent this house to us have another home along the eastern coast where they live in their retirement throughout the year. This is a place that symbolizes the consumer nation that we have become during the baby boomers’ generation. We use energy that we has been extracted and transformed without thinking of the chaos, confusion, and waste that is created due to our material desires. Its artful use of space and historic objects is appealing but it is the abundance of beauty found in the forest and lake that is inspiring. It is a place that is meant to be shared with others who wonder about what we truly need to enjoy life while contributing to our communities.

I found this lodge advertised on craigslist.org, a non-profit community organizing webpage. The home is owned by a couple who are psychologists. The man created the Tri-County Mental Health services in 1973 in southeast Ohio. The study of psychology has always interested me. The Athens Lunatic Asylum was created and opened its doors on January 1, 1874. It was the first institution for the mentally ill in the state of Ohio. This was before the science of psychology was introduced by Sigmund Freud and was expanded by Carl Jung in the twentieth century. The Asylum would eventually be called The Ridges due to the location in the Appalachian foothills in Athens. The institution had its own water source, gardens to feed the staff and patients, health care, funding and cemetery. I have always enjoyed the aspect of Athens that supports mental health and holistic healing.

I was attracted to working with Athens’ Own because of the holistic management that is taught by Constantine. Constantine, owner and manager of Athens’ Own, reminds me of the vulture. He lives at the Broadwell Hill Learning Center, www.broadwellhill.org, which is a home that has actualized symbiosis between nature and humans. He is the balance to the consumer lifestyles that have been taught by the baby boomer generation. The vultures that soar above Athens, glide on heat waves in the atmosphere and do not expend more energy than is necessary to fly. They clean the earth of disease by only taking what is offered. They are aligned with the cycles of the seasons and recycling nature of life and death. We humans help expand the population of vultures thus they can always be seen along the roadways. After meeting Constantine I could look at this home that I was living in with a different perspective. This home was built with passive solar, it has the ability to be sustainable due to having its own water source and land for gardening which is now being used as a field. It has a wood burning stove in the forest and only a forty gallon water heater for the house. Constantine teaches people to be reflecting on all aspects of their lives so that they may see the solutions rather than concentrating on the deficiency.




Apr 112013

My parents are from the baby boomer generation and it is this generation that I continue to learn how to organize, prioritize, and engage with the progress of evolution and enlightenment. It was this generation that help to expand the civil rights movement, environmental movement, anti-war movement and the women’s movement. At age thirty-one I am aware that I have maybe twenty years left to work, learn, and understand the legacy of this generation in person. Constantine reminds me of the responsibility he feels towards his parents’ generation that left him with an opportunity to serve others and create this business. They taught him to have a work ethic, to sacrifice for the greater good, be a steward of the land, and fix that which is broken. He reminds me of the humility that is learned though pragmatic resourcefulness.

He continues to live his ideals as he becomes an elder. His eyes question my dedication as he speaks his truth, telling me that I must learn the systems that he has been practicing into wisdom for twelve years at Athens’ Own. In order to understand how something works you must know where it comes from, how it is prepared, distributed, fixed when broken, and recycled back to the earth. I stand before him as a confident women determined to understand him and help him, although I know that the arrogant, self-indulgent, negligent aspect of youth is the stereotype that I must prove to be foreign to my professional nature. I reassure him that I am here to listen, to learn how an ethical business succeeds week to week, and readjust my perception so that my humility will balance the success that I have earned and received. My goal is to take the hippy free flowing ideals and translate them into an outline that can be followed, recommended by institutions, and copied as a model.

He wants all of our dialogues to be transparent and online, not just tonight, tomorrow or next week, no he wants them to be online in the moment that the magic is happening so that others can be included in the discussion. I can understand why logs are important, they keep the history of the people that have been involved with Athens’ Own. Their experiences are not lost and they stay connected well after their internship is over. Their experiences represent them and help the business adapt and improve. Constantine is enthusiastic about the Communication Era. He sees democracy happening through an online forum so that dominating groups do not have the power by default. He is not afraid of failures and mistakes rather he believes that they are challenges that inspire work and solutions that lead to efficiency. He has no problem with critiques of the business for he believes that everything that he and his team does at Athens’ Own is owned by the community and that community should know what they are doing.

As we leave for the day I am reminded to be mindful of my words. I have so much to learn. I feel that I have only practiced and studied sustainability. Constantine is teaching it and living it everyday. I am not here to pat myself on the back while living in the progressive town of Athens. I am here to learn how to grow and greet challenges with an open mind like that which is inspired with the rising sun. Granted, when I am up that early I sometimes question with enthusiasm, challenging what I see before me or what I hear, but I know to trust that all will be explained and understood in good time.

Apr 092013

Alyse and Miles, the intern of two years, greeted me near the storage unit of Athens’ Own at ACEnet. The previous day they had been working together to package the Hot Spiced Cashews and stamp the recycled and compostable packaging of Dawn Chorus Coffee. On this day Miles was packaging olives for Seaman’s Grocery Store in 25% post-consumer recycled plastic containers on the stainless steel table in the community kitchen. We were next to the coffee pot that Athens’ Own provides and keeps supplied with Dawn Chorus Coffee for the community of businesses working in the space. Constantine arrived and it was clear that he was the manager and mastermind of the operation. He was given updates on the progress of the day and immediately started helping Miles with his task as Alyse set up my log and I spoke with him about my enthusiasm for the day.

Alyse then proceeded to give me a tour of the facility, their storage, and the products. We then all met at the community office meeting space for a meeting of the minds. The team at Athens’ Own was preparing for an extremely busy week. It was Mom’s Weekend at Ohio University and there were three farmers markets that Athens’ Own would have a venue. I asked about the dress code, thinking that to sell a product the team should be wearing their logo or be dressed nicely to attract complimentary attention. Constantine informed me that they were still working on the dress code, that wearing belts so that when lifting and bending at the booth nothing was revealed that could be offensive or distracting. Alyse told me that they usually wear t-shirts that advertise their partnership businesses in town such as Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery.

Alyse then described all the products that we would be selling. The Athens Farmers Market does not allow anyone to sell a product that they did not create or raise. This means that the Wisconsin Aged Cheese and the Aged Beef could not be sold at the Athens Farmers Market. However the Ohio University Farmers Market was more relaxed in their standards therefore Athens’ Own would be allowed to sell all of their products. The Ohio University Farmers Market is not a weekly market but a monthly market at the corner of Union and College Street across the street from the College Green. I wrote down the prices for the products so that I could have a better understanding for my first day at the market. Alyse told me that the prices do change with the businesses in town that sell their products due to their personal arrangements. While I was learning about the products at our meeting Constantine was teaching Miles the accounting from the last Athens Farmers Market. Constantine was teaching by observing, questioning the logic behind the method, answering questions and demonstrating the correct procedures.

We watched a movie that is available online at athensown.biz called “One Square Foot” which was created by Kaitlyn Bernauer. Part of the documentary is filmed at Broadwell Hill Learning Center and Sustainable Tree Farm. I was then given a book on loan that is required reading for the Worker Readiness Certification titled, At Home with Holistic Management: Creating a Life of Meaning, by Ann Adams. The meeting lasted an hour and a half whereby we separated in groups of two to distribute the products in town to various local businesses. We also picked up food scraps for the Food Scraps and Organics Recovery Initiative while completing other errands.

We met back up at ACEnet and continued preparing Athens’ Own products. Miles and Alyse filled the cart with the necessary tools for cutting cheese while Constantine and I got the Aged Wisconsin Cheese from the cooler and brought it to the community kitchen. We all had our hair tied back and some kind of hat or bandana on our heads while Constantine also had on gloves. Constantine wore plastic gloves while he sharpened the knife and cut the cheese. He spoke of his precautions and techniques while cutting the cheese. He explained that he is creating a team that is dedicated to this community, Resiliency Warriors. I told him that my goal is to work for the SEERs, those that see the need for a Sustainable Energy and Ecological Revolution. Historically there has been the Agriculture Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Green Revolution which created fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified foods. Therefore we need a Sustainable Energy and Ecological Revolution to deal with the overwhelming problems created by pollution and global warming. He was pleased with this and looked up with his eyebrows raised and said that the SEERs would not say they were SEERs. He related the SEERs to teachers because it is up to the student to acknowledge someone as a teacher. He believes that the leaders on the cutting edge of the sustainable movement must live the ideal. People may not understand everything that he is doing, such as not serving disposable cups so that people may taste Dawn Chorus Coffee because it is the cutting edge. He brings ceramic cups and sells containers because he does not want to generate waste and people should have containers on them where ever they go so that we can illuminate the plastic and paper waste that is needlessly accumulating in our landfills.

I then learned how the scale worked, the pricing per pound and we were given the challenge of naming the cheese that had been aged for six months. Constantine and Miles worked together flawlessly throughout our conversations on Holistic Management. Holistic Management starts with a vision then that vision is worked into action and those actions are networked to accomplish the goal. Constantine put a triangle slice of cheese on the scale; Miles filled in the label with the weight and price as Constantine wrapped the cheese and then added the label. Miles is going to be taking his senior graduation test soon and has been an intern for two years with periodical breaks. He is home schooled as many people are in Athens, Ohio. Constantine explained that his internship program is being created to prepare people to work with a holistic approach. He enjoys working with Miles because he is a youth in Athens, Ohio so the program immediately benefits the community. It was beginning to become obvious that having an internship with Athens’ Own is a great opportunity for people to learn: responsibility, punctuality, accounting, packaging, distribution, sales and being impeccable with their word. It also allows them to learn from many of the local businesses in town and meet the community that supplies the stable economy in Athens, Ohio. The opportunity is also ideal for college students that want to enhance their understanding of sustainability, business, marketing, and communication. Constantine told us that he would like to have Alyse and I clarify the procedures for obtaining the Workers Readiness Certification Program for he is still not satisfied with the clarity of the program. We then finished the day by preparing the supplies for the Farmers Market that Alyse, Miles and I would be attending the next day.

Apr 092013

Constantine Faller approached me to work with him at Athens’ Own through Facebook. He informed me that Alyse his liaison/public information officer would email me. I later received an email from Alyse and was told that there are internship positions available. I contacted Constantine through Facebook messaging and told him that I was not interested in working for free. He assured me that I would be paid and that Alyse was a paid intern. Constantine then asked me what my full attention would cost per week. This question was intimidating for me because I did not know who he was or what working with him full time would entail. I proceeded to avoid him and the question to the point of being at the Athens Farmers Market on a Saturday; I greeted him in the parking lot while he was away from his booth carrying a banana box of apples on his way to distribute them to Seaman’s grocery store.  I did not recognizing him as a potential employer or the owner of Athens’ Own. Constantine is connected to many businesses in Athens and yet I still had no idea of what kind of man he is, the work he does, all the products he sells, or the wisdom that he practices. My knowledge was limited to my distant observations which were that he was kind and engaging and that I once bought coffee from him at the Athens Farmers Market.

Alyse informed me that there is a certificate of training with Athens’ Own but there is not an outline or specified timeline for the Workers Readiness Certification. She has been working at Athens’ Own for eight months and she is still an intern without the certificate. Alyse has an undergraduate and masters degree from Ohio University and is the only paid worker at Athens’ Own.  My first day, I showed up at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, ACEnet, located on Columbus Road in Athens, Ohio. ACEnet is where Athens’ Own and Faller Foods is stored, packaged, and distributed. Constantine was not present at my first meeting, he had left prior to my arrival and I was a half an hour early. Alyse gave me the marketing material that they are distributing and told me to go home and read it and come back the next day.

What I learned is that Athens’ Own Collaborative Business Network was established in 2001, which is the same year that Dawn Chorus Coffee was sold at the C & E Market on Richland Avenue in Athens, Ohio. The business focus has always been to create community resiliency, sustainability, teamwork, education, and local foods. Resiliency and sustainability are closely linked; sustainability is the ability for an economy and the ecosystems supporting the environment of that society to be able to meet all the needs of all its inhabitants for the foreseeable future. Resiliency is the ability of an economy and the ecosystems that support the environment of the society to respond to change with symbiosis. In the event of a catastrophe the community could continue operating during and after the effects of a catastrophe.

I was surprised to learn that Constantine has many Athens’ Own products such as: Dawn Chorus Coffee, Hot Spiced Cashews, Pickled Peppers, Pancake and Waffle Mix, Aged Wisconsin Cheese, Dry Aged Beef, Sweet Beef Bologna, and Worm Castings. Constantine Faller is the creator, manager, distributer and steward of Athens’ Own.  Faller Foods is the product logo that encompasses Constantine’s products and other producers that do not have their own name brand. Therefore the Pure Ohio Maple Syrup is from River Sugar Camp in Stockport, Ohio and the Ohio Honey is from either Gillogly Orchard or Washington County. Everything with the Athens’ Own logo is a product of Constantine’s efforts. Faller Foods is the logo that represents the standard to which Constantine lives and works. The product is thereby guaranteed to be high-quality, locally grown or raised, and/or value is added to the product locally.

Apr 082013

I love coffee and I drink it everyday. On Thursday April fourth I volunteered at Athens’ Own. It was really fun because they package their products at ACEnet, the community kitchen and office location on Columbus Road. I was able to see many of the wonderful community members that enhance the sustainability practices and knowledge in Athens everyday. I received free potato seeds and garlic from Community Food Initiatives on that day. I learned that Athens’ Own is not just a business, Constantine Faller and his team are working to actualize a vision of resiliency. While you are enjoying your cup of Dawn Chorus Coffee you are supporting ethical economic choices. Constantine Faller, owner of Athens’ Own, orders coffee that is certified by the Café Feminino organization which ensures living wage jobs and works to create education and better living conditions for women in coffee countries such as Peru. Dawn Chorus Coffee is fair trade, organic, shade grown, and the coffee is roasted in Athens County. The boxes and equipment used in the production process are up-cycled or re-purposed. The packaging of the coffee is done at the community kitchen in Athens, Ohio known as the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks and is made of compostable material that has been recycled. Therefore the purchase of Dawn Chorus Coffee is a small action that reinforces a larger vision of holistic management.

Historically women in South America are limited to working in the household/farm and are married between the ages of 12-16. Currently due to the network of businesses supporting the work of Café Feminino, one thousand women are sharing experiences that increase their self-esteem, leadership qualities, and security while working outside of their homes. They are coffee farmers preparing the terrain and the nurseries. They compost fertilizer, prepare bio-fertilizers, harvest, de-pulp, ferment, and dry the coffee. They also sell the coffee and have the privilege of deciding how the money is used. This is a rare accomplishment! Two cents per pound above fair trade price is paid to the US Importer of Café Femenino to pay for the income and education of these working women producers.

Athens County is documented as being one of the poorest counties in the nation, yet many people of Athens have learned that the meaning of wealth is found in the strengths of a community, holistic education, Biomimicry, energy that is ecologically and economically sustainable, clean water and air, healthy food, bike paths, community gardens, seed sharing and public parks. The local business owners, farmers, distributers and workers support one another in Athens which is the true standard of wealth. The focus of Athens’ Own is community resilience, sustainability, teamwork, education, and local food. Holistic Management is the vision that Constantine Faller is working to expand. Coffee is a common beverage yet how the coffee bean is grown and who it benefits from its sale is not always a common consideration. Luckily Constantine Faller has created the opportunity for the consumer to make a mindful choice. A drop of Dawn Chorus Coffee in your cup creates ripples of resiliency. Constantine is impeccable with his word, clear eyed, strong willed and ready for a challenge. I feel fortunate to have met him and his team and look forward to learning and sharing more about Athens’ Own in the near future.

Dawn Chorus Coffee is served in Athens, Ohio at Salaam Restaurant, Bagel Street Deli, Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, The Union Bar and Grill, 9 Tables, Columbus Road Diner and Burgers.

It can be purchased at the Athens Farmers Market, Seaman’s Grocery Store, Hyacinth Bean, Village Bakery, Dale’s B.P., Amesville Manna House General Store, Poston’s Carry-Out in Stewart, Ohio and Sharpsburg Gilchrist B.P.