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Pawpaws for the People: Monika Perry ’17 at Integration Acres

Here at Integration Acres in Albany, Ohio, I work for Michelle Gorman and Chris Chmiel—the great minds behind the well-known Pawpaw festival. Chris and Michelle have a passion for the Ohio native pawpaw fruit that budded during their time at Ohio University, where Chris designed a major in “holistic transitions to sustainability.” Since graduating, the couple have dedicated their lives to bringing the “pawpaw to the people.” Their farm, Integration Acres, works with the idea of sustainably integrating all of the operations of their farm, beginning with the planting of pawpaw trees in the fields where their herd of sixty goats graze and forage. The goats will not eat the pawpaw trees, but will clear the brush around them, allowing the pawpaws to prosper. Chris and Michelle use the fruit of the pawpaws in many of their specialty items, from chutney, to popsicles to a craft brew beer that you can find on tap at the Athens pub known as Jackie O’s.

I take on many different roles here at Integration, but every day I leave work feeling that I have accomplished something valuable for a small business whose mission I believe in. Today, I spent three hours working in the kitchen with Michelle, helping to make a batch of feta cheese and packaging products for the farmer’s market coming up on Saturday. I then spent another three hours outside working with my co-worker and permaculture mentor, Alia. We spent our time today setting up a drip irrigation system, planting, and weeding. Every minute of hard work is a lesson and brings me closer to understanding my personal goals beyond my time here at the farm. I couldn’t be happier with the time I’ve spent here.

Learn more at https://www.integrationacres.com

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