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

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.

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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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