Community Solutions Wins Community Impact Award

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The Yellow Springs Community Foundation has recognized Community Solutions for the work it has done over the past year with The 2018 Community Impact Award. The Foundation explains that "the award is given to a local organization that has made the most impact on the community through its initiatives and projects." Community Solutions is honored and humbled to receive this recognition.

The award will be presented at the annual meeting of the Yellow Springs Community Foundation on Saturday, April 7.

When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home


Originally posted on

Written by Kathryn Schultz

One October night a few years back, Pam Stone was downstairs watching television with her partner, Paul Zimmerman, when it struck her that their house was unusually cold. Stone and Zimmerman live just outside Landrum, South Carolina, in an A-frame cabin; upstairs in their bedroom, French doors lead out to a raised deck. That week, autumn had finally descended on the Carolinas, killing off the mosquitoes and sending nighttime temperatures plummeting, and the previous evening the couple had opened those doors a crack to take advantage of the cool air. Now, sitting in front of the TV, Stone suddenly realized that she’d left them open and went up to close them.

Zimmerman was still downstairs when he heard her scream. He sprinted up to join her, and the two of them stood in the doorway, aghast. Their bedroom walls were crawling with insects—not dozens of them but hundreds upon hundreds. Stone knew what they were, because she’d seen a few around the house earlier that year and eventually posted a picture of one on Facebook and asked what it was. That’s a stinkbug, a chorus of people had told her—specifically, a brown marmorated stinkbug. Huh, Stone had thought at the time. Never heard of them. Now they were covering every visible surface of her bedroom.


Wealth Inequality and The Fallacies of Impact Investing


Originally posted on

Written by Rodney Foxworth

In 2015, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker penned a powerful essay arguing that formal philanthropy achieve not only generosity, but justice, calling for a new charter of philanthropy, a 21st century “Gospel of Wealth” that would accomplish what Andrew Carnegie’s proselytizing could not: address the root causes that perpetuate human suffering, wrestling not just with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.

We live in deeply troubling times. Then again, most of us always have. According to Credit Suisse, the wealthiest 1 percent now own 50.1 percent of the world’s wealth, up from 45.5 percent in 2001. In comparison, the wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth.

According to a 2017 study, “The Road to Zero Wealth,” by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies, median wealth for African Americans will fall to $0 by 2053, if current trends hold. Median wealth for Latino-Americans will hit $0 nearly two decades later. By 2020, white American households are projected to own 86 times more wealth than African American households, and 68 times more wealth than Latino households. And based on studies by University of Oxford economist Robert Allen, there are 5.3 million Americans who are absolutely poor by global standards, more than in Nepal (2.5 million) or Sierra Leone (3.2 million), and the same as in Senegal (5.3 million).


Barn Restoration/Transformation Underway

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Many visitors to Agraria are immediately captivated by its historic barn. While Community Solutions has been unable to accurately date it as yet, the craftsmanship and beauty of the original structure are apparent. The hardwood beams, which have been found structurally sound by inspectors, are joined by mortises and tenons and secured by hardwood pegs. However, some of the more modern additions did not match, and were not as durable.

Since barn restoration and renovation are among our first priorities, property manager Gabby Amrhein and Matthew Lawson recently set about some demolition work. In an amazing 10 days, they managed to completely remove a storage room, the entire steel-beamed loft, and more than half of the particle-board flooring with its somewhat deteriorated underfloor! For those visiting tonight for the potluck, the barn--and the area behind it--are closed during this part of the restoration due to safety concerns. We are posting this so that everyone can see the amazing transformation that is underway; watch our blog for more updates, and thanks for all your support!

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Clearing a Place for Children to Play and Work

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We are making a space for some of Yellow Springs' youngest students to learn at Agraria! Everyone at Community Solutions is looking forward to this summer, when the Yellow Springs Community Montessori Cooperative will host a work/play program for its energetic learners, ages 3-6. A design for their outdoor classroom/playground is underway, and when finished it will serve all the children who visit Agraria, not just the Montessori participants.

Not long ago, a few Community Solutions staff members were out in the chosen area--just behind the new offices, at the edge of a honeysuckle-infested woods. With some chainsaws, sunshine, and the vision of Antioch Miller Fellow Gabby Amrhein, the extensive clearing work got off to an enthusiastic start! If you'd like to help, come out and join us (and some terrific Montessori parents) on April 3. See the event page for more information, and thanks for all your support!  

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California Court Ruling Ends Decades of State Pesticide Spraying

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Originally posted on

Written by Center For Biological Diversity

A judge has ordered the California Department of Food and Agriculture to stop using chemical pesticides in its statewide program until the agency complies with state environmental laws.

The injunction, issued late last week, is a sweeping victory for 11 public-health, conservation, citizen and food-safety groups and the city of Berkeley. The coalition sued the state after unsuccessfully attempting for years to persuade the agency to shift to a sustainable approach to pest control that protects human health and the environment.


Magazine Focused on Community Race and Class Issues Is Available for Free Download


Originally posted on

Written by Christopher Kindig

In today’s world, it’s rare to find positive and engaging stories that simultaneously expose readers to sensitive topics like race, class, and social barriers and biases. The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), a nonprofit organization with offices based in Rutledge, Missouri and Louisa, Virginia, has produced Communities magazine for the past 25 years, exploring the joys and challenges of navigating such issues together in cooperative groups.

The Spring 2018 edition of Communities, released on March 7, focuses on “Class, Race, and Privilege,” and contains more than 20 articles which look unflinchingly at a major “elephant in the room”—the relative lack of racial and class diversity in most intentional communities, at least in North America—while suggesting ways of understanding and addressing it.


'The Dirt Cure:' Why Human Health Depends On Soil Health

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Originally posted on

Written by Julie Wilson

Our connection to nature is sacred, dating back to the beginning of our existence. It’s no wonder then that our health is intimately intertwined with the Earth—from the soil beneath our feet, to the food we eat, to the water we drink and to the air that fills our lungs.

In other words, nature determines our health, upon which much of our wellbeing—and even our happiness—depends.

This philosophy is the foundation for Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein’s book, “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.” Dr. Shetreat-Klein is a pediatric neurologist, herbalist, naturalist and urban farmer based in New York City, where she raises chickens (a lifelong dream) and grows organic fruits and vegetables.


President's Budget Proposals Would Hurt Rural America

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Originally posted on

Written by Anna Johnson with Jordan Rasmussen

The president’s fiscal year 2019 budget was released last week. This is an annual event, where the president formally requests funding for government programs from Congress. Since government programs live and die by their funding, this is the major annual opportunity for the president to set comprehensive positions and priorities for the government’s work.

This latest budget includes many proposals that would be detrimental to rural America. While Congress has the final say on how to fund or not to fund, the president’s budget starts those negotiations for the next fiscal year.

We are concerned rural America has been dealt a very poor hand by this budget. Below, we unpack several of the most troublesome proposals.


One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts

Last Friday, OEFFA's Amalie Lipstreu thrilled the participants at Regenerating Landscapes when she showed this terrific video by Peter Byck. It tells the story of Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures, and his journey from industrial agriculture to regenerative practices. The social, economic, and spiritual impacts of this kind of transition are profound--we're inspired to be a part of this movement at Agraria!

Black Farmers Reviving Their African Roots: “We Are Feeding Our Liberation”


Originally posted on Yes! Magazine

Written by Kevon Paynter

One Saturday morning in November, Xavier Brown was working in the Dix Street community garden in northeast Washington, D.C. The garden is near the Clay Terrace public housing complex in the heart of the city’s Ward 7, home to about 70,000 people, 94 percent of whom are African American.

Brown worked alongside six formerly incarcerated men to build a compost bin big enough to generate 1,200 pounds of rich soil, or what they call “black gold,” out of neighborhood food scraps. The compost is an essential ingredient for growing crops in the 32 garden beds they also made from donated and recycled plywood.


Who will drink the last glass of water in Cape Town?


Originally posted

Written by Community Solutions Fellow Kurt Cobb

Because Cape Town sits between picturesque beaches and mountains, it is a favored travel destination. And, its weather during the summer is described as "almost too perfect." That's in part because it rains very little in the summer in this second most populous city in South Africa.

Trouble is, starting in 2015 the rainy season never arrived. One year, then two years and now three years of extreme drought have brought the city's water supplies almost to exhaustion. Barring extraordinary rains or even more draconian cutbacks in water usage than have already occurred, Cape Town officials say they will have to turn off water to most household taps and businesses sometime in April. They're calling it "Day Zero." Hospitals and essential public facilities will be exempt. Most residents would have to line up at designated water supply stations for a daily allocation of 25 liters.

Cape Town's current troubles were not necessarily foreseeable in the usual sense. Yearly long-range weather forecasts raised no alarms when they were released since they did not predict an extreme drought for that year.

The causes of the city's water problems are, in fact, multiple. First, Cape Town's population has risen 80 percent since 1994 (the end of white rule) to 3.75 million people putting extraordinary demands on its water system. Second, average rainfall has been gradually decreasing for decades and has reached its lowest since 1933. Comparable records before that are not available. One calculation cited in the above linked article is that the current drought is the worst in more than 300 years. Another calculation suggests the multi-year drought is a once-in-a-millennium event. Third, climate change is almost certainly increasing the likelihood of such a drought though there is no way to prove the link to this particular drought.

There may, however, be water for the city to harvest. Underground tunnels that channel runoff and storm water from the nearby mountains are one source. But that's not an immediate solution (because of the new infrastructure that would have to be built), nor one currently being considered by the city. Small-scale containerized desalination plants are expected to be installed to take advantage of Cape Town's seaside location. But they won't solve the problem either. They aren't big enough. When completed the three plants will produce a total of 9 million liters per day. The city currently consumes 600 million liters per day though its conservation plan calls for a reduction to 500 million liters.

While Cape Town's water problems might have been broadly predictable—along the lines of "there will be a water shortage at some point"—the current shortage suggests that the effects of climate change can and will continue to surprise us with their suddenness and severity. Just to be clear, the city is not going to "run out" of water completely as some reports assert. But, on its current trajectory Cape Town will be the first major city in the world to shut off taps to most of its users because of a water supply crisis.

For now, there won't be a "last glass of water" from Cape Town's taps as I've implied in my title. But if there ever is, it will likely be consumed by one of the millions of tourists who visit Cape Town each year. As The Christian Science Monitor reports: "Some central and downtown areas could be exempt from the [water] cut-off for the sake of tourism and business."

So tied are the city's fortunes to visitors that the locals may be forced to watch as those visitors sip from their water glasses in Cape Town's restaurants and cafés—while the locals stand in line for their daily water ration. Can Cape Town remain a tourist haven long under the burden of such a contrast?

A "Magical" Garden Fence

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Written by Community Solutions Media & Education Coordinator David Diamond

Some Agraria “magic” happened these last couple of weeks—at least, it looks like magic to those of us who saw a beautiful garden fence appear just outside the office windows! First, Gabby and Matthew felled  black locust trees—short-lived but hard-wooded trees that are numerous at Agraria—from the woods behind the offices and dragged them to the community garden area by the farmhouse. Next, they dug holes 3 feet deep for the felled-tree posts to sit in. Some steel mesh fencing was ordered and applied. And finally, they crafted wooden gates and attached them for future gardeners to walk through. The transformation of this area has begun. We’ll continue to document the progress with photos and posts, but we invite everyone to see how it all turns out in person on our Family Garden Day, May 19!

China Is Re-assigning 60,000 Troops – To Plant Trees


Originally posted on

Written by Amanda Froelich

Good news — China is about to get a whole lot greener. According to a source in the Central Military Commission, a large regiment of the People’s liberation Army, in addition to the nation’s armed police force, have been withdrawn from protecting the northern border. Their new task? To plant trees.

The new forests will cover an area approximately 84,000 square kilometers in size — roughly the size of Ireland — in 2018. The goal is to increase forest coverage to 23 percent of total landmass by 2020. The current forested area stands at 21 percent, according to China Daily.


American Farmland Trust's Women for the Land Initiative

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Originally posted on

Written by April Anne Opatik

Over the past few decades, women have entered agriculture in unprecedented numbers. Increasingly, women own farmland, are new farmers or have become more involved in all aspects of agriculture.

There are now nearly one million women farm operators, and over half-a-million additional women landowners who lease their land to farmers. Nearly 301 million acres of U.S. land—about a third of the nation’s land in farms—are now farmed or co-farmed by women, and at least 87 million additional acres are in the hands of women landowners.

Over the next 20 years, about 371 million acres of farmland are expected to change hands as farmers retire or leave their land to the next generation. During that time, women and non-farming landlords are likely to increase in numbers.


Composting: Join the Revolution


Originally posted on

Written by Helmut Schimmel

It’s not just agriculture, but rather society in general, that is facing significant changes on a revolutionary scale. Crisis capitalism and easy credit pose a danger to sustainable development and the worldwide fight against climate change that is already underway. New ideas need to be supported and published so that they can eventually be implemented.

There is an ever-increasing discrepancy between the waste of natural power and resources in conventional composting methods (unavoidable losses in the forms of gases and liquids during hot composting) and the growing need to protect nature and the environment (through sustainable development to curb global warming). A solution is desperately needed. Composting is a part of the battle of opinions between humus management and ecological gardening and farming on the one side and Justus von Liebig’s so-called mineral theory, which serves as the foundation of the chemical industry and conventional agriculture, on the other side.


Registration Open! Regenerating Landscapes and Conservation 2.0


Community Solutions is partnering with Tecumseh Land Trust on a 2-day symposium devoted to land regeneration and conservation, locally and worldwide! Registration is now open, and limited-income rates are available.

March 8th: Tecumseh Land Trust and several other partners are working to preserve and improve conservation practices on land in the Jacoby Creek and Yellow Springs Creek sub-watersheds of the Little Miami River. The land trust's 5-year federal Regional Conservation Partnership will make available easement purchase and conservation practice funding for land in the two sub-watersheds.

March 9th: Join us to hear how regenerative soil practices build healthy landscapes, grow healthy food, and spark healthy communities. We’ll look at sample landscapes –urban, suburban, and farm fields—and delve into the regenerative plans for Jacoby Creek. Attendees will learn how they can help to regenerate soil—in their backyards, with their food purchases, and through political action.

Click here for more information and to register.


At Berlin March, Tens of Thousands Demand End to Industrial Agriculture

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Originally posted on

Written by Andrea Germanos

Tens of thousands of people—and more than 100 tractors—swarmed the streets of Berlin this weekend to demand a food system transformation nourished by political policies that foster ecological farming.

"Farmers and consumers from all over Europe have made it clear that they are fed up with current policies that benefit huge food and agriculture corporations, at the expense of the environment, peasant farming, and public safety," said Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, and among the estimated 33,000 that took part in the Saturday march.


Annie's Offers Regenerative Agriculture Scholarship

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The organic food company Annie's offers a scholarship for regenerative agriculture study. According to their documentation, their program is "open to full time undergraduate and graduate students studying at an accredited two or four year college or graduate school in the U.S. for the 2018/2019 school year. Students must be focusing studies on sustainable and regenerative agriculture. International students may apply if they are attending a U.S. school." For more information, see their website.

Farming for A Small Planet

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Morning at Agraria with cover crops in bloom

Originally posted on

Written by Frances Moore Lappé

People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.

Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model. But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways. Wider societal rules and norms ultimately shape whether any given quantity of food produced is actually used to meet humanity’s needs. In many ways, how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot—no matter how much we produce. Solving our multiple food crises thus requires a systems approach in which citizens around the world remake our understanding and practice of democracy.