Aug 052013

It seems that I have been travelling quite a bit this summer. From teaching at scout camps to family vacations to wilderness treks, I feel like I have been seeing a lot of the world recently.

This past week, I went backpacking to a family cabin in Ontario.The cabin itself is an old logging resort, and it buried deep in the wilderness. So deep that the closest “city” is over 20 miles away, and that city comprises only a gas station and a few houses. The pristine silence that descends on that cabin, broken only by the occasional call of a loon, brings on an incredible sense of not just the raw beauty of nature around me, but a calm meditation on the entire scope of the world and my small place in it. There really is no better place to contemplate life and the path you are on than the wilderness, in my opinion.

At the end of my ponderings, reflections, and journalings during this trip, I came to a hard but necessary conclusion: I believe it is time for me to begin my process of leaving Athens’ Own. I will be resigning my post at the end of August. Over the next day, I will be writing and developing a plan of action for the next two weeks and four weeks, which will explain not only how I came to this conclusion, but also how I will spend my Athens’ Own time over the next month, preparing myself and the rest of the team as best I can for my departure. I also feel I should note that I do not intend to simply leave the team entirely. We are still part of the same community, and the connections I have made with everyone over the past year mean more to me than I can put into words. It is my sincerest hope to remain in close contact with everyone and to continue to help with Athens’ Own’s efforts as much as I can.


The plan I am preparing will cover at least these topics (and potentially more as it develops)


  • My personal rationale of my decision
  • Detailed thank you letters to the team
  • Continued volunteer work plan
  • Two-week strategy

    – Recruiting

    – Job Descriptions

    – Internship postings

    – Finished tutorials of website

    – Additional blog posts

    – Completion of writings/ stories/ etc

  • Four-week strategy

    – Compilation of documents

    – Detailed plans for replacement

    – Educational models for new recruits

    – Completion of odd jobs on to-do list

    – Additional writings


As I mentioned above, this list is just an initial overview, I am sure this does not cover everything I need to do and say before I conclude my employment. I have learned and grown significantly in the past year with Athens’ Own, and I hope, in this plan, to express the depth of this growth and how everyone involved can move forward from it.

Jul 252013



What is Athens’ Own doing?


I wrote recently about picking up turtles from the highway, in an attempt to save them. I also mentioned that in this metaphor, Athens’ Own is trying to do more. However I didn’t say exactly what more means. And unfortunately, I don’t have a simple answer for that. The bottom line is, there are two options when you pick up that turtle. The first one is, you can say: “Good for me, I did something great!” and carry on with your day. The second option is that when you set that little turtle down in the nice cool grass, you think: “Huh.. Is that really the best that I can do?Is it possible that I am I capable of more?”


Sometimes, when you do your best, it doesn’t look like anything at all. The first person to hold up a sign in protest likely went home that day without physically seeing the results of their actions, even if their actions that day happened to start an avalanche that changed the course of history. But that person followed their heart, voiced it, and it catalyzed something happening. Doing more, doing your best, is not about spending time wondering if something is going to happen, its about having no doubt that there is a convergence of forces greater than oneself, that just might join together because of something you did or said. You might not always know what will happen, but the people that make the most difference are the people who do something because they know beyond a doubt in their heart that it is the right thing to do at that moment. And it usually happens that people of like mindedness are drawn together by these actions.


There is a moment in any action when you realize what you are doing is no longer the most powerful thing you can do. For the protester, it might be when they realize people are looking at them and actually listening, and they put down the sign and pick up the petition and start talking to individuals. After that it might be a presentation, a rally, or a roundtable. After that it might be something even bigger, but each action first began with a thought of: “How can I do better?”


This is the feeling that has driven Athens’ Own throughout the many years of work we have done. Keeping in mind our goal of building a better world for our grandchildren, we consider what we are doing everyday, and if it is truly our best. And if it’s not, how can we do better? We aren’t making decisions based on next year’s profit, but on the lives of our children’s children. We may not be able to see them and see how their lives will be just yet, but if we go to bed everynight knowing we did our absolute best for them, then both we and the turtles can get a good night’s sleep, and be ready to do our best tomorrow.

Jul 162013

Faller Foods and Constantine’s Dry Aged Beef

On a sunny Saturday morning in Carlisle, PA, as the church bells were chiming their last note, a little boy named Constantine Faller clung to his mothers’ arm as they walked down the street to the local butcher shop. This was the routine every Saturday morning; Mass, then a stroll down the street to order lunch from a nearby restaurant, and on to the butcher shop to pick up an order of meat to feed the family for the coming week. From those early days, when little Connie had to stand on his tip-toes to see over the top of the butcher block, to when he was old enough to walk down and pick up the family’s order by himself, he learned to understand and appreciate what true local quality meat was and what it meant.


A few years (and a few more younger siblings) down the line, a new local meat processing plant opened up in Carlisle. By now there were eight Faller kids. Every penny had to go as far as it could, and Constantine’s mother made the frugal decision to purchase meat at this new plant, instead of the small butcher shop. As a young adult, Constantine had little to no interest in where or why his mother bought groceries, but for some reason, his mother’s decision greatly upset his grandmother. Constantine realized that there was something clearly different about this new store and its beef, and his Grandmother was not happy about it. He soon discovered that particular something had a bit to do with texture and a lot to do with flavor.


Around this time, and even a bit earlier, a new practice of wet aging was becoming common in the commercial beef market. Most commercially available beef was no longer aged by hanging. Instead, to save money and time, beef was being hung for less than a week, then vacuum sealed in plastic packaging, boxed, and put on a warehouse shelf. Although the beef can still age in these sealed packages, the taste which results from wet aging is not at all similar to the rich, naturally flavorful taste gained from the traditional dry aging process. Unfortunately, this type of hanging (which was the method used in that little butcher shop Constantine used to go to,) takes time, effort, and energy. Wet aged beef can be boxed and neatly stored on shelves, as compared to the inconvenience of a room filled with whole, hanging carcasses. Even though it has a far superior flavor, very little beef is dry aged today. Because of this, the commercial beef industry made the decision to switch to wet aging.


Throughout his life, Constantine has never forgotten the little butcher shop and the superb taste of dry aged beef. Around 1995, after moving to Athens, Ohio, Constantine began experimenting with dry aging single cuts of beef. Unfortunately for a man who loves learning new things, there was no one around who could teach him this technique. It seemed like everyone he talked to about it had a story from their own childhood about helping their grandfather age beef in their barn, and running out to cut off a bit for breakfast in the morning, but it seemed the actual knowledge of the aging techniques died with those grandfathers. Never discouraged, Constantine attended beef production classes and workshops, conducted his own research, and experimented with his own processes and ideas, in diligent and passionate pursuit of that perfect steak.


Through his research, he discovered many unsettling trends in the beef industry. One of these was the practice of electrocuting entire beef carcasses to burn off the protein, and to accelerate the aging process, and Constantine found the sight of it horrifying. Witnessing this practice in particular drove him to decide to create a product which would uphold the absolute highest standards of not only taste, but also honor and respect, even after the animal is dead.


While experimenting with his own dry aging techniques, Constantine spent a good bit of time trying to find a meat processor to work with who would dry age his beef long enough. Most processors were willing to hang beef for no more than ten days. Constantine needed to find a local processor who would prepare the beef to his particular specifications. He searched high and low, made countless phone calls and visits, until he finally found Dick’s Meat Packing Plant, in New Lexington. Having already made connections with local beef farmers at the nearby Red Bird Ranch, he began to develop these two partnerships to make his dry aged beef a reality. Constantine knew that beef is generally a product that people are willing to pay a premium for. He also knew that bringing a truly exceptional local beef product to an already strong local economy would be one way to begin work to get the farmers a fair wage. Constantine was eager to establish a system which would explore ways to provide sustainable economic development for everyone involved.


Around this time, Constantine was already beginning to sell coffee in a few local stores. The coffee as a product was relatively easy to bring to the market. Using the cooperative relationships he had already begun to create with these local businesses, he was able to begin selling his own dry aged beef. Constantine’s first commercial sale of his beef was in April of 2005, to the Wild Horse Cafe in Pomeroy, Ohio. Since then, he has created collaborative partnerships with many Athens county businesses to distribute and sell his dry aged beef, including Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, which today serves a burger he created, (called the “Athens’ Own Burger”), made with Constantine’s dry aged ground beef patties. Retail offering includes Poston’s Carry out in Stewart and Seaman’s Grocery in Athens.


Throughout the story of this beef, Constantine has never had anything more than word of mouth to know he was doing a good job. He never entered any contests, or pursued any national recognition. He just knew he liked the beef, and hoped other people would like it too, which turns out to be exactly what happened. By word-of-mouth, Athens’ Own dry aged beef has been compared to beef available in the finest New York steak houses, and has been hailed by many local chefs as a truly exceptional product. Even so, Constantine is still working to continuously learn more and refine his methods. He still experiments with aging methods, temperatures, grain, and genetics. He hopes to never be entirely finished crafting and perfecting the quintessential delicious steak. For Constantine, Athens’ Own dry aged beef is truly a life-long labor of love.

Jul 152013


Meeting at Fed Hock High School – 7/15/13

In attendance:

-Bill Elasky

-Cliff Bonner

-Constantine Faller

-Alyse Carter

-Miles McFadden


CF: To start, a little bit of background with Bill- through the window of business, we are working on building resilience. The solutions lie in places that are not part of our current educational stream. If we are taking interns from all these places (OU, hocking, etc), there are opportunities for us to create some educational models.

Some of the subsequent discussions have moved into evaluation, how to determine what and how students learn. If we’re working with students at OU, with someone who has already been through the education model, that creates its own problems. We say that as a business, you are not ready to work for us. That is usually shocking to students- I got this degree, you’re saying I’m not good enough?

We actually had a student write a piece on the shortcomings of education for one of her first projects.

Bill and I have talked about the care program, so we have the opportunity to get to these students early.

CB: So what type of shortcomings are you talking about?

CF: Research

AC: Writing, resumes, what I would call “common sense” skills.

CF: Alyse talked to a journalism professor who was shocked to hear that we had a complaint about one of her students’ writing. Critical thinking is another one. Social Skills.

CB: What exactly does your business do?

CF: (Explanation of AO, with help from Alyse)

CB: So are you a non-profit?

CF: No, we are purposely a for-profit. I chose it so that I could use that megaphone, that window of opportunity to get my message across. Like Bill said, we are doing a different kind of business.

How can I help the future generations to be better able to handle what is coming in the future? I’m not a doomsdayer, I’m a realist. What do I have in my toolkit that I can give to these kids? How can I use logic to help people see from point A to point B? Yes, this is Athens’ Own, and me, but the goal is that any community can build from the model and make their own marketing network and bring it to their community.

CB: So what were you thinking? What are your ideas?

CF: In the sense of pathways of decision making, I asked Bill if he was interested in an overall project in which the first slice, a micro-project, is a part of. For example, if building resilience is too nebulous, one slice of building resilience is local food security. One slice of that is local farms, what can we grow, how can we grow more locally. So, strengthening local agriculture. It is also a way to help me apply my training as a chef to help make this happen. If in any way the project is related to healthy community, somewhere further down the line is the Red Bird Ranch, a slice as a starting point is healthy soils. I’m not saying it might be the best one for these students coming in, but if you have a study of a healthy soil food web, how can that be broken into something the kids can do for one quarter, how long is the project?

CB: Were you thinking with the CARE?

BE: What I would like to see, is if we can get some CARE kids, something that would involve all three of us, the school system, AO, CARE. If you’ve got contacts with local food producers here, it makes sense to involve them also. It makes sense to start with something concrete that gets us all working together. I know you want to move beyond something short term, but coming up with something concrete would be a good way to get people thinking and working together, as long as there is an understanding that this is just the first step, trying to get some successful experiences under our belt. My involvement at this point would be a semester, but I wouldn’t want to stop with that. I like the idea of a partnership with a business, especially one who is trying to be as progressive as the district. I think our goal is similar. Perhaps one of the goals for Fed Hock is to start stepping out into the community and have a bigger impact on what’s happening in the community, beyond just sports and entertainment, but something that helps bring the community together. I think in doing that both the OU and Fed Hock students would feel inspired to be a part of that.

Students turn in sub standard work because they’ve never done anything REAL. They turn in the paper and skip off, whatever grade they get is fine. They want to do something real, something that inspires them.

BE: (Explanation of foxfire project in Georgia). The kids loved it, they were doing something that MATTERED. If it was a good issue, it was because the kids put into it what needed to be done. If they didn’t feel it, they would put out something that was substandard, but they didn’t do that, they had a personal stake in what they are doing. That’s what we want in our educational system, that’s what kids will get excited about, it doesn’t matter if they are in college, or a freshman here, etc. If you talk about social skills, it gives them reasons to work together and develop those social skills. All these things that you want, I think are things that we want, all these things are there, and it’s because of the partnership. What we need to do is figure out where we can begin to cooperate. You want to develop these skills, and you want to do it under your business models. So where is it that we start? How can we begin to cooperate so that we are helping our community become healthier, more self-sustaining, we’re helping kids become more involved in doing something that matters in the community. And how can my students assist?

CF: Is there anything in the educational models that illustrates the interconnectedness of life on this planet?

CB: Our science programs definitely touch on some of that…You can do things two ways- in a classroom or in some outside activity. Kids here have to have citizenship points to graduate. As little as going to a board meeting, but it gets more involved from there. Bill, you’ve usually worked with teachers in the CARE program.

BE: Yes, and there’s difficulty finding the time and space to make these things happen in the way that we as teachers want it to. I haven’t always been successful in getting our end of the needs spectrum met, some of that has to do with the curriculum, and the test. It might be good to do something out of school at first.

CF: What I was asking was a question of whether a project base could help them reinforce what they are learning. If they are going to take their square foot of dirt and farm it, do the water and air matter? The usefulness of giving them real-world application. And what are the hundred year effects, and if this could be a useful real-world thing, a starting point to help reinforce some of those science type things.

CB: That is definitely part of our science program here. There is a garden out back, our teacher has been doing that for years. The teachers are in tuned with environmental issues. So yeah I think that definitely would be a real world application. I don’t think it would connect with the agriculture department, I don’t think they get that kind of spin in that department. They don’t quite have that kind of slant on things. So that might not work as well there.

(Discussion of AO’s beef processing, locations, people, etc)

CF: There are job opportunities for someone who would like a local job- helping process meat, etc.

CB: So back to the question of where do we start. How do you get the kids, how to get them to buy in? It would be a little bit of a commitment outside of school. We are a big district, but we do run activity buses…so how do we get them to buy in and then get there?

BE: Could we do over lunch?

CB: Definitely. We had a nutrition group come in one time. Lunch is a great time. But teachers do have constraints on their time.

CF: In the sense of a resilience building company, these things we sell are just the fundraising efforts. To be halfway good at that, one needs to be flexible. I can say, you will learn. If you come in and say you want to learn and here’s what you have in your toolkit, coming up with projects is an easy thing for me. Listening to everyone’s needs, how can we help being a part of making them happen? These are things I currently have on my slate, but it certainly isn’t limited. I’d rather hear, what is your primary need, and how we can be a solution to that.

BE: A need I have is to show that education doesn’t have to be book-centered. It is best when it is set into something real. It doesn’t have to limit you, if you can integrate the whole thing, especially things like math that you tend to break down into little things. You can use math or science to accomplish many things. There’s no advantage to knowing something if it doesn’t have any use. We teach things that don’t have use because it doesn’t have any context. All those other things come because you are doing something real, because of the context you put it in. So that’s my goal. Many college students are going into education because they had such a meaningless experience, they want to do something to change it. So our need is to do something real.

AC: I assume you’re familiar with the term experiential education? That’s what you are talking about, right?

Be: Exactly.

CB: So how do we get this started?

BE: The beef thing, gives us a window to look at all these things, jobs, resources, businesses, etc.

CB: There’s so many levels to this. The middle school science class would be great for this. But there’s also these levels, like jobs, non-typical business models, sustainability, there’s so many levels.

AC: I think a good star would be to start with seeing the story

CB: I think that’s great, “what’s the issue?”

CF: My definition of food security is to be able to feed ourselves on an open timeline from sustainable local sources. As a scenario of a problem to solve, do we have the square footage, that’s tillable, to feed our current population? That reality of how much agriculture does it take for a family of four? Etc, etc

BE: even if you are’t going to look at this as a potential emergency situation, if you rely on local people, what does that do for the health of the community? If the money stays in the community?

CB: Well I’m thinking kids need a hook!

AC: Show them the food! Feed them a steak, show them a cow.

CB: I’d say every one of our students knows a farmer. The hook could be that, we are helping people we know. People know the Lackeys. Maybe its leanring more about the food.

BE: Going back to the 30 mile meal, how about the hook is, trying to construct a meal, one meal that is 30 mile meal. In the cafeteria.

CB: Whats a feasible number of kids? The middle school science teacher, he doesn’t have as many constraints. We want to make a more real middle school concept- inter-departmental cooperation. They can use their time for anything around the core classes.

BE: We could facilitate beyond just that too.

CF: There’s a lot of power in what a 7th grader can say….they’re old enough to speak with a mature voice. Without wagging a finger of negativity, going into a rotary that might be buying from GFS- giving a presentation on why they should buy food from the Lackeys. Get the kids to understand that the research might tell them that they might need to do things a different way. If it can potentially convince a rotary, then its one more body that is focusing on this: Make them say “when we eat at the country club, we are gonna eat 30 mile meal, that 8th grader convinced us to do something better for our future.”

CB: I think you’ve got your hook: your lunch prices are going to go up if you don’t find a way to buy local.

BE: 8th grade would be perfect.

CB: We have three teachers who I think would buy into this.

BE: So we have language, social studies, math, science. It’s a hook to get them out into the community and get involved.

CB: It’s got interdisciplinary written all over it. Do we just want to start with one class, you have a lot of kids…

BE: In effect what we are doing is giving these teachers a way to change how they teach. To put all the subjects together and to do something that is real. I think these deficiencies that you see, I think will become part of that. And at the end, the big thing is, we need to consciously look at how this 30 mile meal thing impact the community.

CF: One of the things we are trying to do is show kids and help them understand what they can do with their square foot. I think somewhere in there is where our solutions lie, from the ground up.

BE: Does this 30 mile meal thing start to get into where you want to go and what you want to do?

CF: Yes, I think it is a great hook.

CB: One of our challenges here has been to bridge our community-school gap. I think we’re starting to do that, but I think there’s ways that we can do better. I think this is perfect for that. I think the first step is to talk to the teachers and if they buy in and this goes well…we do have a lot of teachers who do project based things, we have practical assessments, the senior project. They know the idea, now how do I more engrain it into what they are doing in the classroom, and it takes outside people to come in and facilitate that. You (CF) help to bring that community connection.

CB: Well I can invite in that middle school team, would you like me to do that?

BE: I think a good next step would be to talk to these teachers, and see if they are interested. That gives us a place to start. I want my students to have some part in developing this, I dont’ want them to step into a project thats already full blown.

CB: Would the first teacher day, august 16th be too late to get together?

BE: I’d like to present the information to them sooner, let them think about it, talk about it. Then on the 16th come in and talk to them a little bit more. I don’t want to have it too finely developed. I’d like to give the students an option to come in and listen.

Conclusion: BE and CB will discuss with FH teachers, contact AC for more information later and to facilitate the OU student’s introduction to AO.

Jul 142013

On Thursday morning, Constantine and I started by him asking me what it was that I do that “gets me to the next gear”, as if in a car. I think that he asked because it seems that I don’t really “get excited” or even move fast while working with Athens’ Own. Anyway, I said I thought I “changed gears” when I do something like mowing. I didn’t really know why, but I thought maybe it was because I wanted to get it done faster and finish sooner. I wonder if that means that I don’t really want to finish my current activity with Athens’ Own or what. One other thing that I have thought of since that conversation was airsofting. Whenever I get in an airsoft war with my friends, I really get really involved and active in that activity. Now I need to “transfer” those actions (speed) and mindsets (wanting to be involved more) to working with Athens’ Own. One thing that I should transfer is the ability to take any situation and make the most of it. While mowing, I try to do the best job I can, even if the grass is too long or wetish. It gives me the opportunity to see what works best/worst in those situations. The same with airsoft. I can try out different strategies and work toward becoming proficient with the best one or two. Again, I need to get that into my Athens’ Own work.

Later that morning, once Alyse got there, we went into the the kitchen at ACEnet and saw some cinnamon bread that Crumbs had left out. We of course had to ask if they were freebies. They said they were because they had gotten slightly stale and hadn’t sold out front. That didn’t stop us. We took a loaf of that bread and got some butter. We put the butter directly into a skillet and placed the bread slices right in it and let it sizzle. After a flip or two, we had some awesome grilled cinnamon bread. After the Crumbs guys ate a loaf or so of that up, we made some more, only this time we tried it as french bread. Couple of eggs, cinnamon, some sugar and the cinnamon bread. With some cinnamon sugar and maple syrup, it was just as good.

I think that using that stale bread in those ways was the beginning of making the best of opportunities that we may not like at first. The bread was stale and by most standards, was not usable. But we found a way to make the best of it and turned it into a couple awesome things to share for breakfast. I now just need to find ways to do that in all the other things I do with Athens’ Own.

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.