Yellow Springs Giving Tuesday

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This Tuesday the 27th is Giving Tuesday, a call to our community to take the giving spirit of the Holidays and donate the local nonprofits of Yellow Springs!

The link here will allow you to learn more about these nonprofits, Community Solutions included, and fall in love with these businesses. Show your support for your favorite nonprofits like the radio station WYSO, The Antioch School, Yellow Springs Home, Inc., Tecumseh Land Trust, Antioch College, and many more.

We also want to thank you for all of the support we have garnered over the years as the growth of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions and Agraria has been going strong as our community grows in new and unexpected ways. Be on the look out on our other pages for more opportunities to donate to these nonprofits and to Community Solutions and share #YSGivingTuesday We hope you all are having a safe and fruitful start to the holidays.

-Community Solutions and Agraria

JJJ Automotive Thanks

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Dear Mike Eid and JJJ AUTO Repair,

On behalf of all of us here at Community Solutions, we would like to thank you for your help and generous gift.  Our farm truck plays an important role in keeping day to day operations going and aids in our community outreach.

Your donation of time, materials and expertise, has played such an important role.  It has allowed our work to continue, as we strive to maintain a continued connection with the land that feeds our community.  For all of this, you and JJJ Auto Repair, will always remain a dear friend of Agraria and our mission, ‘’to explore and demonstrate the benefits of regenerative practices at multiple levels—from the environmental, economic, psychological and social, to their impact on human health and well-being.”

We would like to donate a plaque after you and JJJ Auto Repair as a thank-you for your wonderful donation and support of our mission.  The Nature Conservancy will soon begin to remove invasive species of trees and plants on our 128-acre property along the Jacoby Creek.  Native trees will be planted in their place, and a plaque will be displayed next to a tree of your choice to always remember your support and kindness.  

Will will keep you posted as we approach a date for the tree naming.

Sincerely, with all our hearts, we here at Community Solutions thank you!

New Grants for Agraria - Kids Get the Dirt on Soil Education

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Originally posted on ysnews.com

Written by Megan Bachman

The architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller often used a metaphor to illustrate how small targeted actions can move massive systems. Fuller noted that the “trim tab,” a tiny mechanism of a ship’s rudder, can change the ship’s course with a minute movement.

At the Agraria Center for Regenerative Agriculture, soil is seen as the “trim tab,” according to Susan Jennings, executive director of Community Solutions. 

“We are thinking of soil as the leverage point,” Jennings said last week. After all, soil health affects everything from water quality to climate change to human health, she said. 

To spread its work on soil restoration and sustainable agriculture, Community Solutions recently received several grants for educational initiatives at Agraria, its 128-acre farm just west of the village. 

Read more…

One Size Fits None: Excerpt

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By Stephanie Anderson

I’m in western South Dakota, rolling across the prairie in a blue 1970s-era pickup truck, when I first see them. Buffalo—faraway brown dots on a hillside that become massive bodies outside the passenger window as we approach them, their faces accented with beards and curved black horns. They are primeval, ancient, mammothlike. They have a wise look about them, but also a wildness, as when they flash the whites of their eyes, spin around, and gallop off, showing us they’ll never be completely tamed.

I’m at Great Plains Buffalo Company, a ranch where Phil and Jill Jerde and their children raise more than a thousand grass-fed buffalo. These buffalo will eventually be slaughtered, providing consumers with meat, but they are much more than food sources. They are the keepers of this grassland. With their hooves they aerate the soil and push seeds into it. With their waste they fertilize it. Through their grazing habits they encourage the growth of grass instead of woody plants. They maintain symbiotic relationships with birds and insects. They make the prairie function in a way it hasn’t since their ancestors walked it, before we converted the Great Plains to corn and soybeans.

The buffalo show us what the prairie once was and how humans have changed it—to some, destroyed it—and this in turn is a reminder of all the landscapes we’ve changed. “Wrong side up,” said a Sioux Indian who watched a white sodbuster rip the grassland open with a plow. The Native Americans knew why soil was best left undisturbed: roots, twenty-five miles of them in a single square yard of prairie turf just four inches deep, held the soil in place, had done so for thousands of years.2 With a single plow swipe the settlers set it free to blow. Result: the Dust Bowl. Later result: desertification turning the Great Plains into a desert. Less than 4 percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains, and those defiant acres are rigorously protected. Still, it is feasible that the tallgrass prairie could be gone before I die. A human being’s lifespan is roughly how long it took to destroy 96 percent of it, which does not bode well for the last 4.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The buffalo before me represent a new agriculture that can help restore the prairie and other landscapes without sacrificing the amount of food produced. These animals show us that there are many ways to farm and ranch, that we can change how we define those terms, that we can reverse the damage we have done and create a better agricultural future. The buffalo are walking, breathing proof that human beings do not have to destroy the earth in order to eat.

Years ago, I would not have seen the buffalo as keepers of the range. I grew up about twenty miles from Great Plains Buffalo on a conventional ranch outside of Bison, South Dakota, where my parents raise cattle, wheat, corn, and hay. Had I not discovered a love for writing that drew me to college, I probably would have stayed there the rest of my life, working alongside my father until I could start my own operation. I’m serious about this.

Read more here…

Tree Teachings: How Fossil Fuels and Climate Change Are Altering the Global Forest


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Originally posted on Resilience.org

Written by Andrew Nikiforuk

The world’s most ancient trees are failing.

And their demise is telling us something about the dramatic impact of climate change on the natural world, says famed botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger.

The tree expert, who is also a medical biochemist, is clearly concerned, if not shaken.

These trees provided food, shelter and medicines for civilizations more ancient than the Romans and “are the backdrop to nature.”

In her bestseller The Sweetness of a Simple Life, Beresford-Kroeger described the global forest as “a molecular memo” that harvests one carbon atom at a time and “pulses that sweet gas we call oxygen, needed for every single breath we take.”

But the most ancient denizens of this forest are now dying and disappearing.

The botanist, who has been studying the health and importance of global forests for decades, rhymes off one example after another.

She begins with evergreens in the Atlas Mountains across northwest Africa.

For thousands of years cedar forests mixed with oak and juniper in the mountains have served as reservoirs for the entire region, ensuring flowing water for its rivers.

But warmer temperatures have dried up groundwater in mountain catchments and the blue cedar forests now are shrivelling.

Drought has concentrated the region’s 800,000 livestock, which has added to the deforestation. The illegal logging of valuable cedars has also taken a toll.

Lebanon’s great Biblical cedars are suffering a similar fate.

In one historic grove where Jesus is believed to have revealed himself to his followers after his resurrection, it used to snow and rain 105 days of the year.

Due to man-made climate change the trees can now only count on 40 days of moisture.

Climate change has also tipped the balance in favour of the cedar web-spinning sawfly, a pest unknown to science until 1998.

Global warming has brought earlier snowmelts that allow the insect to emerge just in time to munch on new cedar shoots. In the last decade the bug has killed nearly 10 per cent of Lebanon’s Tannourine forest…

Read more…

‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss

The emerald anole, one of the main insect eaters in the Luquillo forest of Puerto Rico.

The emerald anole, one of the main insect eaters in the Luquillo forest of Puerto Rico.

Originally posted on washingtonpost.com

Written by Ben Guarino

Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.

Read more…

Agraria Awarded Ohio Environmental Education Grant

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We are thrilled to announce that we have been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Education Fund for 2019! After a competitive statewide application process, grant recipients are chosen by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, with the help of the fund’s Advisory Council. This grant will help further develop educational programming at Agraria.

This grant award is the result of a collaborative effort between Community Solutions, Yellow Springs Schools, the Springfield City School District, Xenia Community Schools, The Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District, Central State University, and the Yellow Springs Children's Montessori Cooperative. It will also synergize with our recent grant awards from the Dayton Foundation for education and building site preparation, totaling $52,500. Many thanks to all who contributed their expertise and support!

The educational project, called “Soils for Life—Southwestern Ohio,” will bring teachers from Yellow Springs, Xenia, Springfield, and other area schools to Agraria for training in soil science and biodiversity curricula. It will also fund place-based, experiential education for students from these schools during field days at Agraria. For those unable to visit, Community Solutions will supply buckets of materials and supplies to help teachers conduct lessons on their school grounds.

Grant activities start in January 2019. Watch this blog, our electronic newsletter, and our social media accounts for more announcements as we roll out this ambitious program! For more information, please call 937-767-2161 or email daviddiamond@communitysolution.org.

Permaculture Design Course - Week 1

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Written by Sarah Straley and Ryan Hottle

The week of Oct. 1-6, 2018, was gorgeous. Spikes of goldenrod made their final saffron flourish at the edges of Agraria’s forests and fields as the honey bees frantically gathered their last stores of pollen. Abnormally warm air near the ground teased us with the sweet decay of Osage oranges and aster flowers, while the cold nights and crispy leaves of fall sailed overhead like clouds. A group of five students of different ages and backgrounds gathered to study permaculture, learn the contours of the land with its varied assemblies of plants and animals, and envision a world of abundant communities centered in self-reliance. 

The bio-designers, bringing their own rich decades of experience, met to sharpen minds and earthcare skills with a two-week, intensive Permaculture Design Course (PDC) taught by world-renowned permaculture teacher, Peter Bane. The lead PDC instructor at Agraria and a former board member of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions (AMICS), Agraria's parent, Peter is well known for his decades of teaching to thousands of students. He has worked in tropical and temperate regions throughout the Americas, with over 30 years of experience as a small farmer, author, lecturer, publisher, and consultant.

The word “permaculture” is credited to J. Russell Smith, author of the notable and still highly relevant 1929 book, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. The subtitle's last two words, when combined, give us the name for this ecological design science. The core concepts in Smith’s book (food from trees, stable cultivation of the land), and in the design course (nature as teacher; human systems mimic natural ones) are centered around the understanding that integrating people, structures, plants (especially perennials) and animals in well-planned designs can regenerate the foundations of society. Permaculture as a global movement began in Australia during the mid-1970s as a collaboration between its founders, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison. These two men would pen some of the movement's foundational texts and go on to teach generations of permaculture designers.  Those hundreds of thousands of students strive to cultivate healthy food production, safe housing, clean water, and just societies in a hundred countries, everywhere with an awareness of Earth’s finite resources and its biological limits.

Peter shared, “This year's design class is small, but the students are bringing a lot of heart and intelligence to the work. The questioning and the insights are very rich.” He believes the hands-on, learning projects to manage water and soil fertility have already made a visible impact at Agraria, and believes the students’ final design projects will likely be even more impactful once they are fully implemented.

One of the PDC students sees permaculture design as conceiving and growing a place—possibly a garden farm, an edible forest, or a whole landscape – that puts earth first and nestles human nature within it. As the bankruptcy of “cheaper, better, faster” mindset becomes more apparent, a mandate to seek economically viable alternatives develops a certain urgency. The flourishing natural world human beings wish for can be arrived at by design--not disaster.

The course, which is taught around the world, begins with a strong foundation in ethics and taking responsibility for Earth, People, and the Future of Life. Understanding that our extractive economy has damaged the planet in catastrophic ways, permaculture designers are taking a fresh look at what resources the planet is losing, at what scope and how fast. We consider how the dominance of one over the other has harmed the well-being of both people and planet.  The aim of permaculture is to have lots of fruit and lots of friends as communities work together to create regenerative food systems, agroforests, and resilient, democratic societies. Some key strategies that can guide this planetary design are: the use of recombinant ecologies, modeling the best of nature, pushing succession, gardening, establishing systems using our historic opportunity of cheap fossil energy, domestic self-reliance, and an ethic of cooperation.

The first week’s 40+ hours of teaching provide a strong foundation for new designers to understand forest ecologies, design patterns, aquaculture, energy, climate and response to catastrophe—all of which leads the students to their final work on a permaculture design project at Agraria. For this 2018 class, two projects were assigned to two teams: one of these is to design a sustainable campground for program visitors that augments Agraria's educational mission; the other, to design a native food and medicine agroforest in a buffer zone between riparian conservation land and productive micro-farms. These projects will be further developed and presented during the second week of the course, set for late October. We will report on those events in a subsequent blog post. Please stay tuned to learn about the students’ final designs, and more importantly, Agraria’s next offering of this transformative Permaculture Design Course in 2019.

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What Will it Take to Avert Collapse?

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Originally posted on Resilience.org

Written by Richard HeinbergDavid Fridley

A lot of people are asking the question these days—including serious folks who work full-time on climate and energy policy. How can the world’s nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to forestall climate catastrophe, without undermining either the global economy (which is still 85 percent dependent on fossil fuels) or the hopes of billions of people in poorer countries to raise their economic prospects through “development”—which historically has depended on increasing per capita energy usage?

The United Nations has passed this vexing question along to the global climate science community as a formal request to write a Special Report providing “feasible” pathways to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius while supporting economic growth and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The science community has responded by publishing papers featuring scenarios to fit those specifications. Until recently, most scenarios have relied on negative emissions technologies, including CCS (capturing carbon from fossil-fueled power plants, then sequestering it), or BECCS (growing biomass crops, burning them for power, then recapturing the carbon and storing it). Critics have savaged these plans as being too expensive and too environmentally risky….

Read more here…

The Agraria Kittens

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This past winter, we were delighted to add a cat to the Agraria family. We didn’t even have to schedule interviews for the position—“Cloudy” just showed up in the barn one day, and it was shortly thereafter that we noticed she was pregnant.

Cloudy has proved herself as an excellent farm cat, both friendly and a good hunter. Now we have four kittens in addition to her, and we’re overflowing with cuteness! We need to find happy homes for the kittens, and we’re hoping you will want to adopt one (or more)! For more pictures see our kitten page; for information, please contact us.

Community Resilience Course from Post Carbon Institute

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Our friends at the Post Carbon Institute are hosting a guided online course with the Security & Sustainability Forum in October. Their description:

“Our popular Think Resilience course will be led by Richard Heinberg, who will be joined by special guests Katharine Hayhoe and Denise Fairchild

The course is rooted in learning how to build community resilience, which is why I thought the Community Solutions audience might be interested in hearing about it. 

Richard covers a lot of ground during the six weeks that the course will run, and by the end participants have a really good start on two important skills:

1. How to make sense of some of the most complex challenges—climate change, inequality, economic instability—that society now faces. When it comes to these crises, what are the underlying, systemic forces at play that brought us to this place? We believe we can only achieve meaningful change through this deeper level of understanding.

2. How to build community resilience. In addition to making impactful changes in our own lives, speaking out and engaging as national and global citizens, we also need to accept the challenge of building resilience in our communities in order to weather the 21st century's multiple sustainability crises.”

For more information and to sign up, see the Think Resilience Course page.

As the Biosphere Dies, So Do We: Using the Power of Nature to Heal the Planet

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Originally posted on Truthout.org

Written by Dahr Jamail

One only need look outside the window to understand that human-caused climate disruption is in overdrive.

Record warm temperatures, floods, droughts, wildfires and increasing incidents of extreme weather events have run rampant across the Northern Hemisphere this summer. These events, at least in part, stem from a global temperature increase of “only” 1 degree Celsius (1°C) above preindustrial baseline temperatures.

MIT and Harvard-trained scientist Dr. Thomas Goreau, a climate and coral reef expert, put this in stark perspective.

“Today’s carbon dioxide levels at 400 parts per million (ppm) [are] akin to bringing about a steady state temperature of 7°C higher and sea levels 23 meters higher than they are today,” Goreau, who is also president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance and coordinator of the Soil Carbon Alliance, told Truthout. In other words, the last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it increased the Earth’s temperature to a point 7°C higher than it is today, and increased sea levels 23 meters above their current level. Hence, we are now only waiting for the planet to catch up to what we’ve done to the atmosphere.

More than three decades ago, Goreau and some of his colleagues were already pointing out that the only way runaway global warming could be avoided was by utilizing and expanding carbon sinks – a natural or artificial area where carbon is stored — as a way of sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Despite this not happening on the scale necessary to avert widespread impacts of runaway climate change, Goreau, along with many others, is as determined as ever to utilize various methods of “eco-restoration” to draw carbon out of the atmosphere.

Read more…

Why The Fight Over The Most Sustainable Diet Is Missing The Point

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Originally posted on kisstheground.com

Written by Rick Perillo

Our food is destructive. Every piece of food we eat has altered the earth in some way. To reduce our devastation, we form rigid identities around our food choices. We belittle other identities and struggle for the moral high ground:

“You’d save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you would if you didn’t shower for six months.”

“The vegan diet wastes valuable land that could be used to feed people.”

Like-minded folks throw park picnics and dinner parties featuring their superior diets, reinforcing their worldview.

We wear badges of honor celebrating our caveman-like diet or our blood-free-meal.

While we argue over who has the more sustainable diet, agriculture continues to turn fertile earth to desert.

The food we eat, whether it is bacon or tofu, is based on an ideology of control of the land. All food has blood on it.

But, it doesn’t have to.

Farms can create wildlife habitats and restore water cycles. Nutrient dense food can pull carbon out of the air and sequester it in the earth. Our money can support farmers who are treated fairly and work to build healthy soil. And yes, it can be done while feeding the world. But first, we need to change the discussion.

Read more…

Miraculous Abundance: Farm Du Bec Hellouin is Making a Difference

Originally posted on kisstheground.com

Our friends at Kiss the Ground and Regeneration International are collaborating on a new video series. 

The latest episode features Farm du Bec Hellouin in Normandy, France, and its mission to farm in a way that protects nature, rather than to destroy it. Using regenerative practices, Charles Hervé-Gruyer and his wife Perrine grow as much food on 1/10 of a hectare of land as their colleagues do on 1 hectare of land. The couple uses the extra land to plant trees, under which animals can be raised, creating a diverse ecosystem that’s teeming with life.

Grounding Vision of Resilience at Agraria

Photograph by Dennie Eagleson

Photograph by Dennie Eagleson

Originally posted on ysnews.com

Written by Megan Bachman

A gulp of barn swallows dove in between rows of buckwheat and bloody butcher corn on a recent 90-degree afternoon at Agraria. On an adjacent field, a heat mirage shimmered as young soybeans poked up through the dry soil.

To local horticulturist and aspiring  farmer Bob Moore, the Agraria center for regenerative agriculture is a place of opportunity and uncertainty.

On land he leases from Community Solutions, which owns the 128-acre farm on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, Moore is experimenting with varieties of grain that could transform the local food economy — if they can thrive.

Gesturing toward the surrounding fields of conventionally-grown corn and soy, Moore observed the reality of agriculture today and posed the question he hopes to answer at Agraria.

We don’t eat what’s grown here. All of the grain on all of this farmland is shipped away from us,” he said, adding that most of it goes to feed animals and — as ethanol — cars. 

“But is there a way we could value-add grain and then get the local farmers to grow that grain?”

Read more...

Breakfast With a Dose of Roundup?

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Originally posted on ewg.org

Written by Alexis Temkin, PhD, Toxicologist

Popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG.

Glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer by California state scientists and the World Health Organization, was found in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. Almost three-fourths of those samples had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety. About one-third of 16 samples made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate, all at levels well below EWG’s health benchmark.

Read more...

Order vs. Wildness: The Land Management Question

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Originally posted on ecofarmingdaily.com

Written by Joel Salatin

The idea, perpetuated by Thoreau, that farming order and wildness were mutually exclusive and therefore required segregated and designated areas allows landscape managers to be lazy about wildness. Perhaps lazy is too strong a word. But I find it disconcerting that too many farmers, arguably the largest landscape managers, retreat to this segregated mentality just like the radical natural park folks. I’d like to see more creativity, more visceral expressions of commercial farming order not only co-existing with wild systems, but actually enhancing them.

Read more...

Community Solutions Awarded Education Grant

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Community Solutions is excited to announce that we have been awarded a $2,500 grant for educational equipment from The Greater Dayton Conservation Fund of the Dayton Foundation! This funding, requested as part of our ongoing partnership with the Yellow Springs, Xenia, and Springfield School Districts, will pay for soil sampling and water testing equipment, along with other similar tools for students visiting Agraria to collect and analyze data. We are extremely grateful to Yellow Springs teachers Margaret Morgan, Rebecca Eastman, and Brandon Lowry for helping us evaluate our equipment needs and plan our programming. Watch this blog, our newsletter, and our social media accounts for news about the many upcoming educational events at Agraria!