Antioch College has announced that during the months of July and August, the school will offer community-based learning courses open to people living in the Miami Valley.
Antioch faculty will teach many of the courses, with an eye toward “hands-on” engagement. Along with courses on social enterprise and innovation, environmental literature and oral history methodologies, the college is also offering a 72-hour intensive permaculture design certificate.
Led by the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute, or CPI, the course is scheduled over three weekends July 14–30 at the Antioch farm.
Permaculture involves developing agricultural ecosystems that are self-sufficient, sustainable and less harmful to the environment.
“It’s really a great opportunity for people to learn more about integrative bio-intensive management systems and get hands-on, on the farm, and get an internationally recognized permaculture design certificate through Cincinnati Permaculture Institute,” Antioch farm Assistant Manager Daniel Dynan said in a recent interview with the News.
Also on hand for the interview were farm Manager Bruce Linebaugh and students Yuri Whitley and Allison Leach.
Along with farming responsibilities, Dynan is an older student with 20 years of farming experience, and is working on a self-designed degree in environmental ethics at Antioch. He moved to Yellow Springs with his wife and twins, a boy and girl, from Taos, New Mexico, about 16 months ago.
Dynan, whose wife is from Toledo, moved to Ohio in part to be closer to her family.
“It was an interesting journey getting here. We moved here when we had 6-month-old twins, and we came back here to be closer to family, and I also wanted to do some schooling here,” Dynan said.
The permaculture certificate is part of the college’s newly formed “learning hub” initiative that is designed to bring more revenue and community involvement to the campus.
“Antioch is trying to shift to a more sustainable financial model, a big part of that is identifying these learning hubs. We’ve got the Coretta Scott King Center, the Herndon Gallery, Foundry Theater, The Wellness Center, and a little coffee shop in the library. And then the final one is the farm,” Farm Manager Linebaugh said.
Linebaugh grew up on a 300-acre dairy farm just outside of Yellow Springs on West Enon Road, where the family farmed from the 1960s through the early 1980s. Linebaugh worked as an aircraft welder for 30 years at a company in Beavercreek. Deciding that he didn’t want to continue a career in a factory environment, he returned to farming, establishing a full-time market garden farm with his wife until 2019, when he was hired to manage Antioch’s farm.
The college farm’s origins reach as far back as the 1970s, when it was mainly a student-run project. An expanded vision was implemented at the institutional level when the college reopened in 2011, after being closed for three academic years. The farm currently stretches across 11 acres of land and runs south, parallel to Corry Street, ending at Allen Street, although much of the land remains prairie.
According to Linebaugh, the outer perimeter will always remain a walking path.
“That’s part of the joy for me, being on the farm there is so much community traffic, and you make really wonderful connections. It’s great to have that sense of community regularly,” he said.
Interviewed surrounded by growing crops, some containing experimentation in different types of heirloom wheat, Linebaugh said Antioch envisions the farm as a “micro farm” — “proof of concept that we can produce 30,000 pounds of food off of these two garden plots.”
According to Linebaugh, a micro farm can be located in rural communities, or on urban lots, and is usually 10 acres of land or less.
“It is a proven concept that you can produce a six-figure income on basically two acres of land or less, but you specialize in high value crops to do that,” he said.
Antioch eventually plans to offer food to the community from the crops produced on the farm.
“Until this year, all the food went into [the college’s] Birch Kitchen to feed students. This year, with our expansion and growth, we are offering a CSA to all faculty and staff. Once we kind of navigate that system, then we will be going public,” Linebaugh said.
According to Linebaugh, Antioch is working on an effective community volunteer program to help manage some of the farm tasks. He mentioned local volunteer Jessica Licis as being a key contributor in the effort.
“We’ve tried so many different models with community gardens and a lot of good intentions, but after one or two times, they just become a neglected weed patch. The model that I have adopted — Jessica is the lead person for that. Any local person that wants to come and volunteer on the farm, she is here Thursday afternoons. Part of your tradeoff for your labor — you are entitled to whatever we have in season on the farm in exchange for labor,” Linebaugh said.
Linebaugh, who has been farm manager since 2019, said an aspect of his evolving farm curriculum involves teaching students how to “create revenue on a micro farm while doing it in a socially conscious way that helps the community.” Linebaugh teaches a Farm 101 class, and one of the objectives of the curriculum is to help students determine if a career in farming is a good fit for them.
“This is my third quarter of teaching. It’s a lot of training. It’s getting the right people to train as farmers because it’s not an easy task. You’ve got to be committed to the land, and what you’re doing. We know not everybody’s going to want to be a farmer, but there are other initiatives that can lead to jobs related to a small micro farm. And one of them is marketing,” Linebaugh said.
Dynan’s background — working for an off-the-grid sustainable housing building company in New Mexico called Earthship Biotech — is perhaps another type of career choice in the field.
“My role there was doing horticulture and working with the greenhouse systems, because every structure has an integrated greenhouse within the home, and it utilizes different plants for food production, for cleaning up gray water, and recycling that water,” Dynan said. “A lot of my background centers around food systems, around food quality, around farming. The Earthship model, which is where I came from, is very much about resilient community and sustainability.”
Students Whitley and Leach have both benefitted educationally from the hands-on work at the farm.
Whitley is a first-year student currently doing a co-op on the farm. According to Whitley, growing up near Columbus in Pataskala — surrounded by factory farms that sprayed copious amounts of pesticides — inspired an interest in horticulture.
“My parents hated [the pesticide spraying]; we had our own little garden where we would grow all of our produce. I grew up doing that, then I also got really interested in herbal stuff,” Whitley said.
Whitley also described the negative environmental effects of living near factory farms.
“We’ve had animals our whole life. Whenever we would let them out while they were spraying, they would get sick. We would always be covering our crops when the wind was blowing, just so that whatever they were spraying wasn’t getting on it, because we would feel it too,” Whitley said.
Leach is studying environmental humanities and resilient community — “so obviously food systems, herbal medicine, even the community we gain through working together on the farm I think is super important,” Leach said.
Leach hopes to do a senior project utilizing the farm’s soil and different methods of fertilizing, while maintaining a focus on community-oriented sustainable practices.
“One of my favorite classes here is with [Antioch Associate Professor] Beth Bridgeman. She taught us the word ‘commensality,’ the act of sharing food and how important that is for a community. … And then extend that to harvesting and growing and things. … It’s just really nice to get outside and connect with the plants and to be able to have conversations about our experiences gardening, just working together on a common goal to weed, to harvest, to plant, to watch something come to fruition,” Leach said.
Dynan encourages the community to embrace both a “local-vore” food system and “local-vore diet.”
“When we look at small farms, there is, in my opinion, a misconception about their capacity to feed communities. … We have so much proof of concept in many other farmers across the U.S. and around the world that small farms can feed the world. … Imagine a world where during the growing season there were no trucks bringing in food from California or South America or China if we didn’t need that, if we had enough micro farms producing above 30,000 pounds of food each in incredibly mineralized healthy crops that we ate seasonally,” Dynan said. “From an ethical standpoint, I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
Registration information for the permaculture class can be found at antiochcollege.edu/academics/community-based-learning/ and questions about the workshop can be emailed to email@example.com.