Jul 112013
 

As Miles, Constantine and I walked into the shared ACEnet kitchen this morning, like we do almost every morning, we halted suddenly, surprised by what lay in front of us. “What is this? Is this for anyone?” We remarked at the tray of four or five loaves of cinnamon sugar bread, left out on the counter in an enticing and inviting way. The bakers informed us that it was bread that was a bit old, didn’t sell well in the store front, and that would need a bit of “culinary expertise” to make it acceptable again. At that comment, I swear I saw a light bulb go off over Constantine’s head. From that moment on, today was Athens’ Own culinary school.

When we talk about resilience, we usually mention utilizing any and every opportunity you have, including making the most out of every situation. Many times, that includes a sense of mystery. We don’t ever know what will be put on the table in front of us today. We might wake up to a power outage, a surprise visit from a friend, a crate of spoiled eggs, or any number of positive or negative unforeseen events. A resilient team, as part of a resilient community can take whatever pops up and make the most positive results out of it. Today, on our table, in front of us, appeared some loaves of stale bread.

The team swung into immediate action – “Miles! Go get a knife, butter, a skillet and a turner!”, “Alyse, get out your camera!”, “Hey Crumbs, can we borrow some cinnamon sugar?”. Within a few short moments, Constantine was instructing Miles on the procedure of quickly and effectively buttering and grilling bread. “No, no, put the butter in the pan first, then slide the bread around to coat it. Those are thick slices so you need more butter.” Interspersed with suggestions of how to organize the cooking area, flip bread with a flick of the wrist, and what “golden brown” meant, the smell of lovely cinnamon began to fill the kitchen. Then appeared a nice silver tray, and the next class, how to attractively display these tasty morsels, had begun. “Tap the side of the sugar sifter, don’t shake it, gently, just like that, very nice…”. And before 8:30am, we were handing a tray of warm, gooey, fried cinnamon bread to the bakers to try. An odd silence fell on the kitchen, interspersed with chewing noises and nods of approval. But we’re not done yet! “Go get some eggs, we’re going to make French Toast next!”. And a relatively short amount of time later, I had learned what “lacing” syrup was, as I photographed Miles’ attempts to pour a stream of Athens’ Own maple syrup in a steady, zig-zag fashion across the toast. Personally, I preferred the grilled bread to the french toast, but they were both excellent.

As I struggled to get Miles to hold up his culinary creations and “SMILE!”, I documented the learning process as best I could with my camera, and marveled at how in only an hour, Miles (and myself!) had effectively learned how to up-cycle bread. Two delicious dishes created from something that was previously thought to be borderline inedible, which we saved from the trash can and used to feed an entire bakery crew a delicious breakfast! Not to mention the continuing education on sanitation, organization, and teamwork that happened simultaneously.

A Facebook post regaling our morning adventure, accompanied by a photo of Miles almost smiling was quickly uploaded, to inform the community about the spontaneous learning which happened today. Responses came in with excitement, asking if we would offer this new treat at the Farmer’s Market. And suddenly, we had another opportunity appear on the table. If we sold grilled cinnamon bread at the market, think of all other projects we might be able to put those profits toward, and what we might learn, or what else we might find in front of us along the way. Time to swing into action again! The resilience team is on the job!

 

 

Jul 082013
 

Today we set out for our meeting with a local education professional with this thought in mind: How we go about using the day in front of us to make the most learning out of every experience?


 

Constantine and Alyse met with BE, director of the CARE program, on Monday, July 8th, for a discussion about Education. The following is a summary/ transcription of the discussion, as taken by Alyse.


 

 

BE- So, why don’t we start with what ideas you have?

Constantine Faller- Well, we are all “teachers”, some more than others. What I can offer from an employers standpoint, and what Alyse’s first task was is a way to explore the gaps in the education system in modern society. Our business has a firsthand view of these shortcomings. I have tried to develop a worker readiness certification but have encounted problems in methodology, etc. One of the things I brought up this morning with Alyse is how to explain this in an education context. Also, I want to hear the kinds of things that you are currently involved in: your “square foot”. There’s faculty around you, some I guess you are closer to than others, that you might get into discussions with about “what if” types of scenarios, and I want to know what I can do as an employer to help be a guinea pig and help provide a place for these things to happen. How can I be of assistance helping us all get somewhere we can’t get by ourselves. So this meeting isn’t just about me, that’s part of our company’s vision, to see where our goals align and how we can work together.

 

BE: Let me tell you what I do- This program is called the CARE program, it started about 25 years ago.We were truthfully very upset with the college of education, decided we weren’t going to have these people in our classroom anymore, it was less than worthless. So some people came up with this program and they wanted us to be involved. The program has basically these purposes: 1. It gets education students in the classroom early and often – before they even start student teaching. 2. It is a progressive, democratic education. We believe that kids don’t turn 18 and automatically become good citizens. “How” you teach is more important than “what” you teach, it is school’s job to make kids ready to be good citizens. There is a lot of critical thinking, developing programs. We work with the students as collaborators and partners. I coordinate the program, I bring kids into it, do the adminstrative stuff. I work closely with Fed Hock because we are in a partnership as well. Several of our instrtuctors are also Fed Hock teachers. The goal right now is to develop long-term programs or projects that our studnets can work on with Fed Hock students and teachers where all three groups have input into what is going on. We did a project recently [where there was a chemical spill on a 6th grader’s farm, and the students worked together to investigate, clean up, and learn about the soil and water]. The students came up with the project and developed it themselves. We were able to incorporate math, social studies, science, and language all in a project that the students had created which was really great for them.

So with this opportunity, It sounds like you are looking for entreprenurial type things.

 

CF: In the sense that our company is building resilience it is in a sense entreprenurial, different than selling “widgets”, like most people do. In doing what I am trying to do- build solutions, build ways for communities to pull them selves up, as an engineer, instead of trying to say “this is what we need to do first” I am trying to identify the starting point. The best place to start with – is it education? Communications? So, trying to decide what is the most important element. This came up because an infinite number of people have asked me, when asking about what Athens’ Own does: “Can you give me that in writing?” So then, what skill do I not have that would help get them their answer, better than it is being communicated now? Which skills should be able to write something like that?

 

Bill: So it is ok that there aren’t projects fleshed out, that doesn’t bother me, there are other people i’d like to bring into the process.

CF: Great! It should be a democratic process, and we should talk about what can everyone bring to the table. So that is great. What are people’s skill sets? I know a lot about food, and engineering, so that’s what I personally can bring to the table. And that’s part of our strategy, identifying what is in everyone’s “toolkit” and how we can work together.

 

B: I like the idea of education contributing to a healthy community

 

(I missed some conversation- was eating delicious sausage and eggs!)

 

CF: We are trying to get across the idea of looking beyond the widgets, beyond the money, to what else is happening. Particularly in rural life- how does a community come together in order to sustain itself? One thing I thought about recently is how the linkage through church isn’t as strong in our society as it used to be in the past. However, there is still a link through schools. It used to be that churches were a central link in the community, with kitchens, gatherings, etc. Not so much anymore, but schools have the opportunity to be this type of link.

In terms of business, if I was just focusing on next quarter, I would just focus on widgets. If I am focusing on the next 100 years, I have to focus on more. It makes business sense to focus like that, it is cheaper in the long run, the cost to our future greatly outweighs the cost to me right now. It’s long-term cost savings.

 

BE: Sounds like we have a lot of overlap in what we want to do. The question is, where from here? I like short term projects that I can get kids involved with, but I like them to have long-term applications.

 

CF: How soon are you ready to hit the ground running with something?

BE: August, when the studnets come back. We have some students who are really capable and enthusiastic, and I want to throw them into something meaningful right away.

 

CF: How much would it entice you if it were a building block type of thing?

B: That’s an essential part of it, it’s potentially a good thing, although it needs to be something real.

CF: Not to overshadow what we are talking about, but I doubt this concept is confined to local. With this kind of progam, I would like to see it as a kind of model of our effort for other communities. How can students be an intimate part of changing their future?

  • Game idea- entreprenurial ideas for prizes, cash, charities, etc

BE: I think a project that is meaningful can have more inspiration than a cash prize.

CF: It has always been a goal of Athens’ Own to have the company be student-run eventually. There’s just so many possibilities. How do we come back to a kernel and start? With Fed Hock being an agricultural, rural setting, do you think having it food-oriented in some way would help people see that we are going to buid better community and this is how we are going to do it? Again, this is just throwing out ideas. We are certainly doing a lot with food, but what does food have to do with building resilience? Helping the RBR be a viable farm, building food security, etc.

BE: And the advantage would be you cast the net and bring some kids in, and get their families involved, they can see in their lives some application.

CF:There’s a lot that is viewable through the window: the inter-connected businesses, getting the product to cusomers, the social situations, the biology of the soil food web, etc. The linkages outward, not just the teachers, but the “trickle-down” tertiary effects…

BE: Yeah, the more people you bring in the stronger it is, the more ideas you have, the more you are able to come up with something.

CF: Without losing this point: the heart of this is education, not food.

BE: So it sounds like what we need to think about, is what are the initial building blocks, what kind of process type things, at least.

CF: I think prior to putting food on the table, I think I heard some of the conceptual building blocks of the program (CARE), I would be quite excited to just open it up to group discussion, including creating a forum…although people don’t need another forum to be a part of so maybe not… It would be nice to hear directional-type things that other people have, their own goals. How to weave as many pieces as possible together. Maximum positive effect.

BE: We want to give kids an education that matters, not just filling in bubbles on a standardized test. I think when kids have the kind of education we have been talking about, the standardized test takes care of itself. They have that and beyond.

 

BE: So would it make sense then to get together again with some more people, teachers, administrators, and try to come up with what are some of these building blocks, and what process can we use to get there, and what building blocks we can use over time. You’re wanting to change the educational system and I think this is the place to do it. The district is in a good place to do these things, to move in a this type of direction. I think you and I are in a good position to enable certain aspects of what they want to do. They see value in what we are talking about, we can become somehow a part of what they are doing, We don’t have to sell them on anything, we are already a forward-looking, progressive, democratic community.

 

CF: And I have an opportunity to field test the results.

How soon should we have a larger group meeting?

 

BE: Either the 16th or 15th of this month, or right after the first of the month in august

 

CF: So basically what we are talking about is,

How can food help edcuation?

Education is the foundation- how can all these other things help build towards education?

How can the sale of a steak help fill in these gaps we see?

 

BE:The beauty of it is, all you need is something that matters to the kids, something they care about, the education will happen on its own. Good teachers can see these opportunities for learning in what they are doing.

 

 

Set meeting for the 15th at 10, tentatively at the high school

 

Jul 072013
 

As is mentioned in various places on this website and in logs, one of the first steps we see to help start building resilience is to take a critical look at the situation in front of you. We have a particular document which we reference often, that we call the “current situation analysis”. This document is a long list of things which we see as the issues, problems, and realities that we are currently facing today.

One of these items concerns the quality of education and educational programs. As a company with an internship program which focuses on helping Ohio University students enhance and supplement their formal educations, we are constantly evaluating and monitoring the students who we meet. And we have noticed a problem, or a “situation” item if you will… the education system is falling short in too many places. We see gaps all the time, whether it be a student who has never had to effectively write a rationale for a project, a student who does not know how to thoroughly complete background research before applying to a job, or even just a student who has ilegible handwriting. As a company who is racing and fighting against time to build a stronger and more resilient future, we need those people who want to be a part of our efforts to be able to keep up with our ideas and our speed. We don’t really have the time to explain over and over what our company does because an intern didn’t read the “about us” section of the website before they applied. We don’t have the time to sit down and watch them write out numbers on an invoice, and we don’t have the time to help them learn such a basic skill as writing an essay. These are all things, among many others, that we think should have been learned at some point already. So what happened? Why are so many students graduating from college without some of these skills, which many businesses would consider basic qualifications?

This is our situation: We see a problem in the educational system. We need skillful, proficient, and intelligent students who are eager to learn and improve themselves. This is not to say that none of our past interns have been up to this standard, rather we have had the pleasure of working with many bright young minds. However, when one takes the average student population into account, I don’t think there would be much argument against the claim that the education system could do better.

If step one is to analyze the situation, what do we do next? Our plan is to connect with like-minded people, who share our observations, goals, and concerns, and try to develop a way to work together to do something about this problem. With that in mind, we will be meeting soon with teacher education professionals to discuss some of these issues and see what solutions we might be able to create.

More on this topic to come soon!

Jul 032013
 

I think it’s safe to say that at some point in your life, you have uttered the phrase: “I’m going to do something about this!” For the purposes of this explanation, what “this” is doesn’t particularly matter. It could be a cause one feels strongly about, a percieved injustice, something one loves so much they feel compelled to help, or maybe even something that makes a person so angry they finally have to stand up and say that sentence. Whatever the reason, and whatever the feeling which caused the statement, whether it was positive or negative, now there is an hanging question in your path: So what exactly are you going to do?

It seems to me that the people who are going to actually stand up and make this type of claim have basically two choices. The first choice, which I think most people would pick, is the path of direct action. This is where people grab their signs and join the protest crowd, where petitions are signed, where fundraisers are held, where invasive species control hikes are, and where people might pick up a turtle and help it cross the road. It is the type of work which gives any human being a feeling of intense satisfaction and a confidence that they did something great today, however large or small the result.

Now, I want to take a moment to pause and make one thing very clear: These people are wonderful. They are essential to our world’s survival, they are caring, loving, motivated people, and they do certainly make a difference in more ways than one.

However, this isn’t the path that Athens’ Own is on. It isn’t the path that Constantine chose, it isn’t the one I chose, or the one our interns will need to choose. As I said above, when faced with the daunting question of “What can I do to help this?”, we have two options. The first is to pick up turtles. The second is to build the systems, shape the plans, create the models, and build the solutions to the real causes of the problems. Athens’ Own does not necessarily want to be the ones picking up the turtles, we want to be at the head of the drafting table, leading the team to design and build a world that doesn’t need to save the turtles because we all live in a way that they are already and always safe. And honestly, we can’t do that if we are spending all our time standing in front of a building with a sign or pulling up garlic mustard.

It is incredibly difficult to put down the turtle, tell it “I’m sorry, but I promise I will save your grandchildren”, and leave it there. However some of us have to do to that if we want to see this real change happen. It is even more difficult to let go of specifics and launch yourself into the bigger picture and understand how by fixing a different, bigger problem, you can save the turtles without ever touching them. In a way, Athens’ Own is trying to help everyone save everything they love all at the same time. We are trying to fight the forest fire, not put out each individual leaf. That would be a race we could never win. But, by taking a step back, focusing our energy and weaving our collective efforts together into a greater plan for a more resilient future, we just might be able to show our grandchildren a real live turtle, and not just a picture and a story. And they might be proud of us, because we really did do “Something”.

In future writings, I’ll be attempting to explain just how Athens’ Own is creating this plan and the types of things that entails.

Jun 212013
 

Tuesday was a bit different because I had an appointment to go to so I only went an hour and a half to begin with, In that time, we made some new egg salad. Constantine was trying to teach me throughout making it that my obligation is not only to make really good food, but also for the eater’s safety. I’m responsible for creating food that is safe to eat, that won’t make whoever eats it sick. I do that by cleaning everything: sanitizing cutting boards and making sure everything is quite clean for the next time it is needed. I also need to often wipe and clean the cutting board and the table while I’m using it to ensure a clean environment.

On Thursday, we didn’t do much because Constantine decided not to come in to “test” us so Alyse and I did some things on our own. First, we took my list of the menu for field day and got everything ready to order. After we did that, I went and cooked some more onions and sliced turkey for the market and for field day.

On Friday, Alyse and I went to Constantine’s and Kathy’s house for the day. First we talked about the kitchen and how it all connects. We started with just food and the six basic needs.( Food, water, shelter, air, health and education.) We want healthy food. That food should be locally sources, and not just sourced but produced and grown locally too. That food must obviously come from a farm. That farm should be a small/family owned and operated. Family owned should ensure that the skills needed to operate that farm will survive. In order to grow nice healthy food, that farm needs clean air and clean water meaning that the farmers need to be good stewards of their land. Also, they obviously need health to do what they do and education to teach others to continue doing what they are doing. That is somewhat what I am doing right now.

Jun 172013
 

Last week, Alyse was gone on vacation so Constantine and I were on our own again. On Monday, we started by doing the usual coffee packaging, which I did beginning to end by myself. We did other things that  I don’t remember because  I didn’t write this when I should have. Afterwards, we went to Seaman’s and did it mostly by myself with Constantine watching over. We also went online and ordered a bunch of new hotel pans for use at the market. We got a water pan in order to make a steam table to keep many things warm while using only one burner. Tuesday, the main thing we did (that I remember) was we went to Jackie O’s to pick up more grain. We had gone the previous Saturday but there was more to pick up. I hadn’t yet done a grain pickup  so that was new and fun. I liked seeing how it all fits together in that we pick up the grain, the grain gets delivered to either Redbird Ranch or Regional Pride (I don’t remember which, but I’d guess Redbird Ranch), the grain gets fed to the cattle, the we get the meat from the cattle and then Jackie O’s or somebody else gets the aged meat from us. I liked seeing that circle. On Wednesday, the market went well despite the heat and the fact that I gad to leave early. I didn’t come in Thursday so I can’t really write on that. Friday , we delivered more burgers to Jackie O’s and then went down the street to the bank and made a deposit. Lastly, the Saturday market went pretty well even without Alyse. It was a good week over all even if I didn’t write this log when I should have in order to get down everything that we did.

Jun 042013
 

On Monday, we first started by bagging coffee, which I did mostly by myself and I am probably able to do it next time completely by myself. After that I bagged some cashews while Constantine worked on a nice old coffee grinder that he had acquired. After we had finished with those things, Alyse and I loaded up and went to town. We first went to Seaman’s and inventoried and stocked them. I did 99% of everything this time around from marking the inventory to writing the invoice. I do now believe I could, if needed, inventory and stock Seaman’s by myself, which is something that I have been working toward. We also went uptown and while Alyse was inventorying Jackie O’s, I went to Bagel St. deli and gave them a bag of coffee then went up to Salam to check their inventory.
On Tuesday, I started by grating cheese for the market and wrapping/labeling cheese for Seaman’s. We then mixed up more marinade for more tofu and then cooked some up for everybody to try.  Once done with all the of that, we worked on some egg salad, both to eat and to serve at the market on Wednesday and if there’s any left, for Saturday. Again, I did this mostly by myself, and it still turned out pretty good seeing as how I haven’t made any egg salad in probably a year. After that and until I had to leave, I/we conducted a cost analysis for the egg salad to determine what we would need to charge in order for it to be worthwhile for us to sell it at the farmers market. I hadn’t done that before so that was new.

May 312013
 

If I can be very motivated to do something, I should be able to motivate others to do something as well. By figuring out how to motivate myself, I can gain some insight into the best strategies and plans to help Athens’ Own interns get motivated. In fact, the ability to motivate others to take an interest and act is one of the criteria of the Athens’ Own Worker Readiness Certification.

To start, what motivates me? Constantine recently posed me the question: What new skills I would be willing to learn on my own time and apply towards Athens’ Own? I came up with a brief list of things I am most interested in and that I feel I would willingly, almost unconsciously, want to learn in my free time which could be relevant to my work with Athens’ Own. The question was posed this way to help me draw out those types of skills and concepts which would be most motivating to me.

From here, we looked at which of those things best aligns with what Athens’ Own is working on. If both my “to-do” list and Athens’ Own’s “to-do” list have similar items on them, then that is the best place to start. The main idea behind this practice is that progress will be made faster when there is alignment of needs, interests, etc. If I can work on something I enjoy that helps move our team, our systems, and our actions forward, it is going to be more productive and positive than if I am being coerced into doing something I don’t think is relevant. This is also why we ask our interns to write their holisticgoals. We can take notice of where a certain person’s goals line up with ours, and then work together to move both them and us towards those goals.

We are working on further developing our educational strategy by exploring this idea of motivation and trying to meld educational theories with our everyday business practices. We hope to provide an experiential learning environment for all of our interns and volunteers. By discovering what motivates ourselves and our team members, we can work to find the best and most exciting opportunities for “working” and “learning” to become one and the same.

May 212013
 

My week Interning with Athens’ Own was unforgettable. My favorite memories were riding around the back roads in the truck with Constantine as we ran business errants, selling delicious, handcrafted foods at the bustling farmer’s market, and getting to visit the shared community workspace building where Constantine prepared his products for market. I had no idea that running a business could be so much fun. There were so many people we got to chat with throughout the day, and new ideas for the business were constantly being developed. There was so much potential for new things Athens Own could sell or do for the community that would both generate funds and serve a crucial role in someone else’s operations. I learned that creative thinkers go far in this environment, because they can see the potential in new business ideas, develop those ideas, and implement them.

Not only did I have a great time helping Constantine run the business, but I also learned how interconnected a business can be with its community. Rather than competing against other local businesses that are all selling the same products, Constantine’s business takes other business’ raw products, such as fresh hot peppers or savory beef, and turns them into value-added products for re-sale. Setting up at the market that Saturday, I felt proud to be part of an interactive enterprise who’s first priority wasn’t profits, and who’s items for sale were beautiful and irresistibly tasty. The shoppers at the market ate it up–literally.
Constantine’s business thrives off the success of other businesses and the prosperity of the people in his community. If that isn’t a better business model, I don’t know what is! Looking back on how much insight I gained while working with Athens’ Own, I would definitely recommend this internship to other college students.

May 202013
 

We have been asked if we can provide a kitchen and therefore cook at the Athens County Amateur Radio Association’s Field day event and I in turn have been tasked to evaluate that request. First, if you don’t happen to already know, field day is a 24 hour amateur radio event spanning the US and Canada, the goal of which is to contact as many stations as possible in that time. It usually takes place outdoors and with emergency power like solar power or a generator and so it’s sort of a test of amateur radio groups abilities to act in an emergency situation. Our role with the kitchen would be to provide food for all the hams working there and as a test to ourselves for the same thing: our ability to respond to and work in an emergency situation. I do believe that this field day event  is a good test because it is just like a normal emergency in that it is outdoors (not in the comfort of our homes), requires emergency power, lasts for a full 24 hours and we will even be working with the radio group as well which will make the experience even better. All these things are good if we intend to become a good team, especially if we want to perform well in an emergency situation. Above all that, I can’t think of one good reason not to cook at field day.