A Shift, And An Opportunity, At Agraria

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Written by Community Solutions Executive Director Susan Jennings

Dear Friend—

This year will go down in our organizational and in international history as one of surprise and shift. Organizationally, there is nothing more surprising than the fact that we are currently packing our offices in preparation for our move into a renovated workshop on Agraria, our recently-acquired 128-acre farm on the outskirts of Yellow Springs.

At the root of the swirl of planning and activity surrounding Agraria is a shift in organizational focus. By far the largest project in our 77-year history, Agraria is allowing a grounding and expansion of our community education and outreach. Already we have engaged with dozens of neighbors, farmers, and students in a visioning of the possibilities for Agraria, including:

·         Research and education around soil and water health and biodiversity

·         Restoration of Jacoby Creek and its banks in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy

·         Support of the regional food system through farmland rentals, production of soil amendments, and a native plant nursery

·         Partnerships with Central State University, Antioch College, and Yellow Springs and other regional school districts

Agraria provides a synchronistic platform for the integration of our organizational focus areas of resilient communities, regenerative land use, community economics, energy democracy, and being the change.  You can read on our interactive map about our long-term vision for Agraria.  

Agraria is both a mirror and an outgrowth of two larger, international paradigm shifts.

The first shift is an increasing recognition of the regeneration of soil as an important climate tool, with carbon sequestration in soil integral to the two latest international climate agreements.  Cutting-edge research suggests that regenerative land use could account for 37 percent of the solution to climate change.   Farmers and environmental organizations are at the heart of soil research and action; the Rodale Institute recently unveiled a Regenerative Agriculture certification.

Our hope is that Agraria can serve as a pilot and a model for land use practices that regenerate soil and sequester carbon.  We have been travelling to other farms, including Polyface, The Land Institute and The Arbor Day Foundation, to explore our options, and have also been attending national meetings around land use, cover crops, and soil regeneration. We will share what we are learning at our March 9th Regenerating Landscapes symposium, as well as in our first issue of The Journal of Agraria, due out this spring.

The second shift is the development of community leadership that is effecting important change.  While the local to global movement is decades old, the failure of many of our larger systems to respond constructively to environmental, societal, and economic crises has galvanized action across the planet.

We heard about many of these movements (including Via Campesina, Mondragon Cooperatives, and Mutual Aid Networks) at our inspiring October conference on The Economics of Happiness. We are also seeing community leadership first hand with the purchase and development of Agraria, with friends and neighbors assisting both financially and with trail building, skill sharing, and citizen science.  You can continue the conversation at our December 21st Gratitude Walk and Open House at Agraria as well as in next year’s educational events.

We are grateful for the support and encouragement we have received for what we view as a community asset and resource for building regional self-reliance. We invite you to join us as a financial partner-- matching our organizational leap with a special pledge—by becoming an inaugural Steward of the Soil and committing $1000 a year for three years. Combined with our business and investment strategy as well as a capital campaign, these yearly gifts will help to put us on a solid financial footing for the long term.

With gratitude for your support, and with best wishes for a hopeful turn of the year,

Susan Jennings

Executive Director