Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture is once again welcoming new members to our team! As AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTAs), these members have a focus on alleviating poverty and building capacity in Appalachian Ohio through service in farm to school programs, the Chesterhill Produce Auction, and more. Join us in giving a warm welcome to Community Resources VISTA Ciaran Lyons and Farm to School VISTA Dora Rodriguez!
What have you been up to the past few years and what brings you to Rural Action? Serving with Rural Action isn’t my first AmeriCorps rodeo! In 2021 I joined the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), which allowed me to travel the country to help on direct service community projects in Florida, Upstate New York, Indiana, North Dakota, and Southeast Ohio. While serving in Ohio I attended the Appalachian Green Teachers Conference, where I met Shannon Stewart and other Rural Action personnel. I happened to be looking for a VISTA position to take once I left NCCC, and I felt good about the people I had met at the conference, and I had grown to really like Southeast Ohio, so I sent Rural Action an application! Before NCCC, I graduated from the College of Wooster with a BA in Political Science and a minor in History.
What excites you about this work? I’m excited by the prospect of asset-based community development! Though I never came across the concept in my studies at Wooster, it seems like a smart approach to strengthening communities that suffer from the externalities of resource extraction. By tapping into Southeast Ohio’s potential for agriculture, for instance, not only will more people build fulfilling careers as farmers and produce merchants, but more people will find healthy food that’s widely available at reasonable prices. As a VISTA, I want to expand the impact of the Chesterhill Produce Auction by helping set up subscription services, as well as develop a farm internship program for high schoolers.
What food or agricultural issue do you care most about? Building food systems that give communities greater self-determination. Considering the rugged terrain, and the degree to which mining has tainted the soil, there are unique difficulties to developing community-oriented food systems in Appalachia. However, these factors also mean industrial agriculture is less prominent here than in other parts of Ohio; social enterprises compete less with corporate interests that often drive the mass production of corn and beef.
If you were a food, what would you be and why? I’d be a wild grape hanging from a vine growing at the tippy top of a tree deep in the woods; I value my privacy (but don’t stop that from saying hi!)
What have you been up to the past few years and what brings you to Rural Action?
In 2019 I moved to Athens for a job making collaborative artworks, who does that? When I was laid off due to COVID and spent every day at the West Side Community Gardens digging up mugwort then planting out crops. After a few months I was evicted from my rental for having too little money and too many chickens. Suddenly I found myself fixing up an abandoned cabin at the foot of a beautiful, hillside garden with my partner and understanding landmates. We moved in quickly and after four months we got to turn on some lights in the house, after 10 months we got a refrigerator and just last month I brought home the most perfect little oven. I still work on making this house more of a home everyday, it is worth it to know that I won’t be forced to leave any time soon. In 2020 I pretty much only left home to walk through the Athens Farmers Market each week with my green and gold coins. In 2021 I was able to join the Athens Photo Project beginner’s class which has brought my love of nature and art together in one. I believe it was my search for purpose and stability that brought me to Rural Action.
What excites you about this work?
The opportunity to serve and be a part of the communities that grow food and eat it, and to learn so much in the process!
What food or agricultural issue do you care most about?
I don’t care about one issue above others. People are having serious issues all across the globe and they are interrelated as are all of our species.
If you were a food, what would you be and why?
I’d be that patch of mint (you know where) cause I keep growing no matter how I was cut down and my essence is undeniably stimulating and versatile.