In a nutshell, and as seen on their website, the aim of Community Solutions “is to educate people about ways to make their communities more self-reliant and resilient.” However small this sounds in scope, I can assure you that there is A LOT that fits into this mission. In addition to the nearly year-round educational workshops and annual conferences that they host, they are a magnet for field research at all levels of academia. Elementary school children are bused in to examine bluebird boxes, make garden beds, and learn about soil testing. Local colleges and governmental / nonprofit entities such as The Nature Conservancy and Central State University have found Agraria – a Community Solution owned-and-operated “educational and research center that explores and demonstrates the benefits of regenerative practices” – to be a suitable site for field studies as well. In addition to educational / research opportunities, Agraria consists of plots of farmland available for leasing to farmers. This is all in the name of supporting the individual farmers who practice sustainable agriculture as well as the larger, regional food system as a whole.
The vast majority of the work I do as a co-op student worker with Community Solutions is related to Agraria. I have been compartmentalizing my tasks over the 30 hour work week as maintenance work, event-specific work, and personally-led projects. Some days I’m working on the weekly tasks such as mowing the lawn, weeding, and putting together brush piles. This is endless and this work is a staple to any sort of land management activity done on the area of land we are working on regenerating. I love this work as it gets me outside which, whether on or off shift, is always a plus. I have initiated some personal, mutually-beneficial projects for myself as well, such as creating wooden signs to mark different parts of Agraria. This has been a rewarding experience for me as it gives me the opportunity to work with wood (an interest of mine), a sense of creative control and ownership over the work I’m doing, and pays me to learn a skill. A win-win-win situation. This upcoming week, myself as well as Adam Green will be working on a biennial soil test which involved much research, many phone calls, and document-sifting through our cloud. We will be collecting soil cores from 120 different sites on the property and shipping them off to two different labs to test for a myriad of soil metrics. This aligns with Agraria’s mission to educate, which involves an incredible amount of monitoring the ecosystem with regard to soil and water quality, bird populations, and the health and prevalence of indicator species on site.
Any hesitation I had about co-oping locally this final quarter of my Antioch college career has been more than abated. My previous co-op locations at Antioch were in Berkeley (CA), NorCal, and Israel, respectively – I always had buzz around going off on an adventure, to a location foreign to me. However, the value of co-ops extends far from where they take me (maybe where in the metaphorical sense would more accurately capture its benefits). My co-op at Community Solutions has really worked perfectly on many levels – 1. It is an outdoors job that is actually benefiting my health rather than a desk job enforcing a sedentary lifestyle I am already to prone to fall into and 2. I really believe that what the world needs is the work that Community Solutions is doing. Fostering a healthier, stronger connection to nature through their educational programs and working towards a healthier, more sustainable food system. The more I learn about “the real world”, life after college, through my co-ops, I am not getting more jaded and inclined to settle. Rather, I’m becoming more and more convinced that there are even more amazing opportunities out there than I thought available.