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Author: Sawyer

Sawyer Perry / Author

Sawyer Perry was born in Maryland. He currently attends Antioch College for a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Public Policy, caring about how pesticide are made and implemented within a governing body.

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Piece of Earth: Sawyer Perry ‘24 at Tecumseh Land Trust in Yellow Springs, Ohio

Nov 05, 2022

Something Familiar – Introduction to Tecumseh Land Trust

Almost on the cusp of returning to Ohio last spring, to reunite myself with familiar things, I realized that I had forgotten something important: my plans for the Fall Quarter. “Forget” is a strong word, but it is as accurate to the experience as I can articulate. I didn’t avoid making decisions–unintentionally or otherwise–but I just wasn’t as fully attentive to planning my next steps as normal. When you’ve worked for months in a remote part of Iowa, celebrated your birthday alone, become accustomed to the exhausting effects of the summer’s heat, and you’re putting enormous energy into finalizing plans for your academic future, thinking about what’s next sometimes falls onto a lesser scale. Nevertheless, with a quick inquiry about possibilities in Ohio directed to my co-op advisor, we were able to identify an organization and schedule an interview quickly.

In preparation for that interview, I learned that the Tecumseh Land Trust was part of a larger ecosystem of organizations seekking to preserve the beauty of the Ohio countryside. Unlike some organizations that are driven by the growth model, the Tecumseh Land Trust is focused on consolidating local support and deepening its work specifically in Southwestern Ohio. Its goals include advocacy for soil health, the conservation of rich agricultural land, and the restoration of a diverse environment through the protection of natural habitat. The organization hosts a variety to support these efforts. All of them are coordinated by the executive director, Michele Burns, who I got to know during my job interview. As I spoke with Michelle it became clear that my academic interests in agricultural policy could be greatly informed through direct experience with the TLT’s work. As I drove back from Iowa and set my sites on attending the graduation ceremony of a dear friend and returning home to my parents, I waited eagerly for a now certain future: a fall co-op with teh Tecumseh Land Trust.

A Rock and a Hard Place – The First Weeks at Tecumseh Land Trust

In wanting to make a good first impression, I woke up early once again on my first day of work and prepared myself in the manner in which I had become accustomed to operating in Iowa. I covered myself from head to toe in appropriate clothing, protected my head with the now sun-scorched Penn State Dad hat, and tightened my boots to the best of my ability. I set off and arrived, once again, just a bit too early. Not that I’m complaining, of course. The view was always a delight to see firsthand. As the sun bent over a flourishing sunflower field, Michele soon arrived, and we were able to discuss my schedule and list of responsibilities I would shoulder moving forward. For a bit, I was able to get into a motion of things. I helped type monitoring reports with Lauren Gjessing, a former Antioch student who graduated a few years ago and now works fulltime at Tecumseh Land Trust while completing a masters degree in policy at Ohio State University. I helped advertise some of the events coming up. I also did groundskeeping for Kim Iconis, a representative for another land trust nearby.

Unfortunately, this rhthym wasn’t to last for long. After de-weeding a pile of Huckleberry near Kim’s property, it seemed my health declined. It was just a sore throat, which I thought at first. I soon found myself bedridden for a week as I had contracted COVID-19. This put quite a damper on my plans, to put it as lightly as possible. In having to go into quarantine, transition to a purely online environment, and spend most of my days waiting for the prospect of a negative test result, I was unable to do much of anything that felt productive for Tecumseh. It was maddening and I hope no one reading this had to endure that same strife. I know there are times in life where you must admit that you cannot do much of anything, that there are things that you cannot affect. But that doesn’t make the inactivity, the waiting, any more enjoyable. Even then, it wasn’t the hardest part.

A Hop and a Skip Away – Tecumseh Land Trust, Moving Forward

Now adjusting back to work has proven to be a harder pill to swallow. People have described it as a “COVID Funk,” the state of your body finally adjusting back to its normal routine after being in quarantine. A funk it was, as it seemed every responsibility had more weight than before. That there was a lot to catch-up on and not enough time, let alone resources, to make do. It was, and still is, tiring having to return and maintain a routine. But I have done enough, even in this funk.

I have monitored several properties, some close to 300 acres in size, have assisted and attended an auction for the first time, and have since made good company with my co-workers. I’ve also met so many wonderful community members, including many Antioch alumni. While I’m still rather dazed by lethargy, I now see that doing is sometimes a matter of getting up in the morning and taking the steps that one can.

For more information, please visit their website and Facebook page:


A Slice of Heaven: Perry ‘24 at Whiterock Conservancy in Coon Rapids, Iowa

May 11, 2022

Another Lifetime – Introduction to Whiterock Conservancy

I don’t like making assumptions or any assertions for that matter. They remind me of a person I used to be and the questionable choices I made. How I was often isolated, from both others and even myself, because a part of me assumed that I was something unwanted. A burden that I wouldn’t wish on anyone who’s looking inward, trying to find out who they are. When these thoughts arise, I now put them aside and choose not to elaborate. Sometimes, however, it’s rather unavoidable.

I gave a brief explanation to friends of Whiterock Conservancy to those who asked. They asserted that because it was in Iowa, let alone the Midwest, it would be nothing more than a barren wasteland. It would be filled to the brim with cover and cash crops.  A small town, a restaurant, or even just a random barn, all as empty as the land it sits on. I would be isolated from any amount of human contact. That was an idea that didn’t upset me at first.

I was used to doing things on my own, which contributed to why this was my first internship. I wasn’t opposed to that mentality blending into my position at Whiterock Conservancy. I would be learning in a style that I’m used to, and I was right. Yet, the more I apply myself, I soon realize that the awkwardness of working with a stranger, even in passing, is more worthwhile than the comfort of working in isolation. That work, as well, doesn’t need to come from constant interaction, but rather, the quiet agreement of getting a job well done.

The Unexpected – The First Days at Whiterock Conservancy

Eager to make a good first impression, I woke up at 6:00 A.M. sharp, with everything prepared for, and arrived an hour early. I always try to be early to things and allow myself to get into the working mindset. I looked beyond the horizon, pacing back and forth with anticipation, wondering what opportunities lie ahead. What training I will be given, what places I’ll be shown, what Whiterock Conservancy is. I would’ve been lost in myself until one of my co-workers, LeeRoy, gestured for me to come inside.

After basic introductions and itinerary, I was given yet another surprise: a controlled burn. It was as hectic as you’d expect for someone new to the concept. Yet, that was to be the norm as I continued my first three weeks, helping maintain three burns that treated over 500 (to my recollection) acres of land. It’s hard to put into words how mesmerizing it was to see. The large patches of Earth burst into flames, the coils, and irregular shapes the fire molds into its kindle, and the quiet focus only broken by the static of a radio. All of that, and yet knowing there was more to be done.

After the burn season came to halt, and all supplies were cleaned and put in storage, maintenance of the land continued. The campgrounds needed to be refilled weekly, wood needed to be cut for use, and trails were to be explored and noted. I helped build two gates on the property, one of which belonged to a farm, cut several logs by hand, and cleaned God knows how many shower-rooms by myself; responsibilities that I did not expect but appreciated. The aches in my body spoke and made me realize the meaning behind a good day’s work.

One Step at A Time – Whiterock Conservancy, Moving Forward

That isn’t to say that I haven’t had my bad days. It’s always a tad-bit frustrating putting into extensive words about simple procedures or daily interactions. However, erratic it was those first couple of weeks has soon slowed its course into daily repetitive tasks. It blends each day into something else and it’s hard to see the significance of it. However, knowing what I’ve done, no matter how simple it can be derived, I know that I’ve changed for the better. With one step at a time, I’ve abandoned the assumption that a good work requires explanation or proof.

For more information, please visit their website and social media: