Yesterday, we first bagged more coffee because we were really low. We finished the coffee about the same time Katie got there. We then had to mix and bag more cashews because we had only one left, which is not very many. There wasn’t enough spice to mix any so Alyse and Katie had to mix some new spice. While they did that, I cut and wrapped cheese for Seaman’s for the first time by myself. I also grated more cheese for the Wednesday and Saturday markets. After those things, Constantine arrived and while he and Alyse talked about some things, I showed Katie how to do the olives. I think that we did pretty good with both tasks in splitting up the tasks to make it more efficient and also go faster. Once done with all of that, Katie went with Constantine to inventory and stock Seaman’s with all of the things we had just packaged. While they did that, Alyse and I went to the conference room to stamp bags, which is always real fun. While Alyse talked to people ans placed orders, I probably stamped 150 bags, so hopefully we won’t have to stamp anymore anytime soon.
Today, the three of us went to Broadwell for a work day there. This was my first time back there in maybe 1 1/2 years making it quite fun for me. After saying hi to Kathy and Constantine, the three of us each took a note from a basket Kathy had prepared for us and on the notes were chores that needed to be done at some point. Alyse drew “plant skunk cabbage”. I’d never heard of something called a skunk cabbage before today so that was fun. Katie drew “mowing” and I drew “clean the dome”. She and I switched because she seemed to want to work on the dome and I mow a lot so that worked out well. The mowing was a bit more in-depth than I had done before because there were more plants to carefully mow around than what I had done before. I had to really learn to look out for more flowers and such than I usually do but it was good experience because the other people I mow for in my time also have plants that they wouldn’t want mowed over. Besides that, it helped me learn that I need to keep more attention at the task at hand and look out for either flowers or something else in whatever task I’m engaged in and therefore not do something I’m not supposed to do. We also did a few other things like Alyse made some orders that needed done, Katie and I both (but mainly Katie) worked a little with the vermicompost and I moved some dirt that is for an area that Kathy is working on. Also at some point in the day, Kathy went over a thing she has for task evaluation called S.M.A.R.T.. The S being Specific: “is the task a specific mission, over maybe more of a broader request?”. M is Measurable. I don’t exactly remember what this one is for but I think it was something like: “does the task have a measurable outcome, i.e., is it worth doing?”. A is Attainable: “is the given task an attainable one, can it be done?”. R is Relate-able or Relevant: “is the task relate-able to the worker? Can the worker relate to the task and therefore fully understand it?”. And lastly, T for Time Sensitive: “is this task time sensitive? Can it be done in a timely manner?”. I think that that is a good way to look at not just those sorts of task, but lots of other things as well. As a result, I am looking forward to the next time I can go back to Broadwell and do some stuff again.
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.
Wednesday, we primarily tried the Wednesday farmers market again. We had been doing the market awhile ago and so we thought we might try it again. It was nice, consisting of some different shoppers than the regular market on Saturdays. We also have a choice: Constantine would like to either, make the Wednesday market a full setup like Saturdays with cooking and everything or, get to the point where we (Alyse, me and Katie) shall be able to do it without Constantine coming into town at all. I think both are good, but, we can’t really do both. They both have their pluses and minuses, Wednesday being cooking. Alyse thinks that more people will come from work at noon in order to get lunch on Wednesdays, which is probably true. On the other hand, being able to do the market without Constantine would be quite resilient, which is pretty much the whole point of Athens’ Own. Resilient in that while we do the market, he would be free to do whatever he needs to do, whether at home or at ACEnet, therefore a better use of that time. The three of us would also learn how to run the stand the whole time without his help.
On Thursday, we first made and packaged cashews, which was Katie’s first time. After that while waiting for Constantine to get there, we worked on a video presentation for the worker readiness certification with prezi. We still need to work on it obviously because we don’t really know our way around the system yet. I am also sort of tasked with learning it and finding out everything about it I can, mainly because Alyse doesn’t really have the time to, but it should still be fun. Constantine and I also made some bean soup with a pressure cooker, which I hadn’t ever used before so that was cool.
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.
On Monday, we first bagged even more coffee, and I am therefore more seeing how much of this coffee is distributed into this community. Not just at the farmers market, but also Seaman’s, and other places. Multiple places also get the coffee in bulk form to serve like Jackie O’s. I knew AO did all that, but I didn’t really see how how many places and people partake of and enjoy this coffee and by that I somewhat mean I didn’t really see how much coffee AO “moved”. I would not be surprised at all if we needed to package more before the market on Saturday in order to have enough. Once we packaged the coffee, we talked more about the worker readiness certification. Once done with that, we split up, Alyse and Katie going to Jackie O’s and Constantine and I went to inventory and stock Seaman’s, and while doing that, I worked on my handwriting. At some point in that day, we opened up the coffee maker at ACEnet and switched the hot water spout seal because it had been leaking some, something else I hadn’t done before.
Tuesday, we talked about doing the Wednesday farmers market, which we haven’t done in a long while, so it should be fun. We also ordered some things: we got some good stainless steal hinges to fix the coolers and got the 25 pin serial cord to usb adapter cord so we can use a laptop with the printer Constantine has. While we got the cord, we also at the same time found and got a nice Jawbone bluetooth for his phone. I did all those orders so those were my 2nd, 3rd and 4th online orders that I have done and I think I’m getting the hang of it. Also, over the phone, I (with his guidance obviously) ordered both a custom fridge gasket for Souvlakis and then ordered some more Frog ranch pickles. After that, I went with Constantine to Jackie O’s and Alyse stayed behind and bagged for cashews. At Jackie O’s, we took apart their coffee grinder because it was not working at all. Once we took it apart, we could see that why it wasn’t working was because it was so jammed full of ground coffee and some beans that it couldn’t work. We cleaned it and I saw how it all works and everything. We put it back together and it now works fine. This also shows again how I think that AO and Constantine are better than the average business: he’ll come and completely take apart and fix something that he provided rather than just let them do it themselves because he cares, even if it takes half the day.
Friday, the four of us started by talking more about the worker readiness certificate and we worked on a good paragraph to get people interested in the program and this is what we came up with:
From our experience, finding exceptional employees is difficult. It seems that many students are coming out of college, or high school, with a lack of real-world skills. To us, this demonstrates a need for a more complete educational system. One way we can see to address this is to create our own job training for our interns. We are interested in getting community input on this topic. Do you agree or disagree that the educational system can sometimes be lacking? Students, do you feel you are getting shorted in your education? If so, in what ways? Employers, do you find it difficult to find great employees?
I think that this is very true because schools don’t really provide students with those necessary skills. For example, they’ll teach you how to do math, but they won’t teach you how to make change or they”ll teach public speaking but they won’t specifically teach a student how to greet customers. That’s a gap in the education system that really needs to be changed and that’s what this program hopes to do. After that previous paragraph, we also came up with these two that follow it:
In June 2012, I sat down with Constantine to discuss a potential job opportunity. He was looking for someone to help tell the story of his company. We talked for hours that day, over several cups of Dawn Chorus Coffee. He asked if I thought in two weeks, I could write the whole story of Athens’ Own. I said of course! Two weeks, that’s plenty of time to write about a business. Why would I have thought that with all my organizational, educational, and personal experiences, it wouldn’t be a breeze?
Almost an entire year later, here I am, with still only the beginnings of the story in my head. I am not saying that I slacked off for a year, I am saying that I never imagined the complexity of the Athens’ Own story could be more than a “This is who we are, this is what we do”. It has taken me almost a year to realize that not only did I not know anything then, I only know bits and pieces now.
That is not to say that I haven’t learned that much in a year. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I have learned an incredible amount of information. I have learned stories and stories about people, places, foods, visions, dreams, and ideas. I have learned new concepts and new skills. I have learned a bit about how to run a business, and a bit more about how to embrace my community. But if I had to pick the main lesson out from this past year, it would be the lesson of how to learn.
I still don’t think I was naive in assuming I could write the story of a business in two weeks. I’m sure there are plenty of businesses out there who can easily sum up who they are and what they do in a few fairly simple paragraphs. However, in the case of Athens’ Own, I found that the story is as much about my own journey as it is Constantine’s. Had I arrived at that first day and said there was no way I could ever learn it all in two weeks, I might have reached this conclusion sooner. In fact, looking back, what I should have said was: “I HOPE I can’t learn the story in two weeks. If I could, it can’t be that impressive of a story.”
In each day that followed, I have observed, participated, helped, asked questions, heard stories, looked things up, wrote bits and pieces, and learned a bit more. Perhaps the most challenging part of this experience was that for each bit I learned, ten more bits emerged that I didn’t yet understand. For a person like me who likes things quantified, I have been exasperated more than once with the seemingly endlessness of the journey. However, I have continually held onto the driving and motivating hope that one day I can somehow get it all down in a way that someone else can read. Each piece that I construct brings me a sense of satisfaction that one more piece of the puzzle is in place, even if that puzzle keeps getting bigger every day.
But the point I would like to make from all this is that the old proverb that “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” is the truest statement I could ever make about my time at Athens’ Own. Although I originally thought my learning experience would have a definitive end and I would move from the learner to the teacher, I have discovered that there is no clear destination, and that is indeed the entire point. I am here to learn, and to continue learning. Even more importantly, I am here to seek out the knowledge and experience, in order to make this challenging journey last as long as possible, beyond Athens’ Own, beyond a job, and beyond anything I can imagine. I have learned, simply, that I have a lot to learn.
Today we (Alyse, Katie and myself) bagged a little coffee, bagged some cashews and packaged some honey. Once done with those things, we went to the conference room and talked about the worker readiness certification. The main reason for this program is because Constantine believes (and rightly so) that both high school and college don’t prepare students enough to just go out and start working. They’ll probably be able to get a job, but their education won’t have prepared them enough to be the best workers and employees that they can be. Constantine’s program then works with the student(s) to do just that: make them the best they can be. We then talked about clarifying some of the requirements and changed the wording on a few. But the main topic was to present this worker readiness certification program to the community, which includes Constantine’s family, the businesses involved with Athens’ Own and the Athens’ Own team, both current and past team members. Since none of us have this certification yet, we are looking at it as if it is an entirely new thing. We are trying to determine how the three of us will best go about getting the certification together, as a group/team. We are going to try to do it as if we were the IDEAL candidates for this program and to sort of set a good timeline in which to do it all. I hope then that we will be able to work together and to get the best out of each other for this certification.