Community Solutions members from around Ohio and all over the country gathered at Agraria on July 21st for our annual membership meeting. This was our first annual meeting to be hosted in our barn, and the atmosphere was festive—including the sound of summer rain on the barn‘s tin roof. The variety of presentations captured the breadth and complexity of what is happening at Agraria. Collaborators, farmers, researchers, volunteers, and staff and board shared their experiences and plans. We are very grateful to Community Solutions super-volunteer Dennie Eagleson for all her wonderful pictures!
Devin Schenk, Midwest Mitigation Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy, outlined the plans for Jacoby Creek restoration—the project is on schedule to begin next spring, with stream re-meandering and removal of invasive species followed by replanting. Sixty acres will be divided into two conservation zones; zone one will be a strictly controlled riparian area, with native plants selected by Nature Conservancy staff, while zone two will include plants chosen by staff to develop permaculture and agroforestry demonstration plots. A further 20 acres will be covered with an agriculture easement.
Tecumseh Land Trust (TLT) Executive Director Krista Magaw informed members about the Jacoby Creek Partnership, a federally funded plan TLT is leading to preserve farms and forests along the creek, improving water health and habitat. Community Solutions is a partner in the grant, and will serve as a demonstration and research site over the course of the multi-year project. Krista also outlined some ways our renting farmers can apply for funding through the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Susan Jennings, Community Solutions Executive Director, followed with an update on progress in the four main pillars of work at Agraria—education, research, conservation, and support of the local food system.
In one of the meeting’s many highlights, Agraria’s renting farmers related their experiences in the middle of their first growing season on the land. Jason Ward is growing soy for organic livestock feed; Bob Moore is growing several crops, including emmer, an ancient and nutritious form of wheat; and Theresa Nolan and Mandy Knaul are raising honeybees while designing a therapeutic garden for the LGBTQ community. Eric Lang followed the farmers with a demonstration of biochar research, and Peter Donovan of the Soil Carbon Coalition used a soil infiltration demonstration to show the benefits of healthy soil in preventing runoff.
Several volunteers were thanked for their service—overall 1200+hours have been donated by volunteers since we purchased Agraria 14 months ago. Bob Huston was honored as “Volunteer of the Year” for his contributions in the areas of logo design, strategic support and honeysuckle removal. His creativity and artistic talent are matched only by his generosity. Paul Sampson, a friend and multi-talented craftsman, received a plaque for his contributions in retrofitting our farmhouse.
Kat Walter rounded out the meeting by giving an update on the Agraria Capital Campaign, which is nearly set to begin. The hard work and generosity of our members and friends will be crucial to the campaign, which will fund education initiatives at Agraria, the construction of a multi-use path to Yellow Springs High School, and barn renovation and restoration. Although the Campaign has yet to kick off, it’s not too early to contribute! We offer heartfelt gratitude for contributions of any size—and be sure to let us know how you’d like the money to be used.