Freefalling into the Future

“We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.”

—Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell’s classic work The Hero With a Thousand Faces was published seven decades ago, but like the mythical structures the book explores, his writing is ever fresh and relevant. The explication of the stages of the Hero’s Journey, which Campbell distilled from a lifetime of studying the world’s mythologies, has helped novelists, psychotherapists, and philosophers understand the meaning and trajectory of personal and societal stories.

The Hero’s Journey begins with a Call to Adventure, during which the hero or heroine is thrown off of their known life path by obstacles large or small and continues through several trials and tribulations, including a death and rebirth, resulting in the offer of a boon—a gift of insight into self or society that can then be shared broadly.

We could choose to see 2020 as a generational and global Call to Adventure—a collection of experiences that makes our old life impossible to continue and beckons us to take a hazardous journey to the future. Whether we are experiencing our free fall materially, as a collapse, spiritually, as a dark night of the soul, or mythologically, as the dragon-filled forest of the Hero’s Journey, there is a paradoxical agency that comes with submitting to circumstance and heeding the Call.

If we do so, we may see that our challenges are shadows of what we need to learn about ourselves and the way we’ve constructed our institutions. Our economic, political, environmental, and health instabilities are signs that we need to re-examine our relationships with the earth and with each other. At bottom, they show us that we cannot live without consequence.

Fortunately, we are also being offered a multi-faceted boon that is being modelled internationally and that has historical roots in indigenous practices and biological roots in life principles. The practice of regeneration is available at multiple fractal scales that reinforce one another. Rather than our linear, materialist mindset that has led us to overshoot and degrade ourselves and our societies, a regenerative approach heals and evolves planetary systems and actors.

Community Solutions and Agraria are heeding the Call through our work:

·       Regenerating soil and biodiversity on our farm

·       Regenerating food and economic systems in our regional communities

·       Regenerating community locally, regionally, and nationally through our education, media, and conferences

 These mission areas are rooted in our 80-year history of exploring healthy models of living, developing intentional communities, and educating about alternative economic structures. As we move forward into the new year, we are mindful of the struggles of so many of our neighbors, yet grateful for the opportunity to engage joyfully—and in partnership with many others—with work that is deeply fulfilling to us.

Several of our infrastructure projects will be coming to fruition in 2021. These include the restoration of Jacoby Creek by The Nature Conservancy and the completion of Mary’s Way, the bike and walking trail connecting Agraria and Yellow Springs. We are grateful for the support provided for this project by AmeriCorps and their hardworking NCCC team, which recently helped clear the way for the trail. We are also updating our barn and farmhouse with new roofs, adding wells and another hoophouse through the USDA EQIP program, and outfitting our kitchen so that we can create value-added products for the barn store we are developing.  

Staff have been hard at work preparing our panty garden, tree nursery, and other sunny spaces to begin a year of growing for our neighbors and for the continued restoration of Agraria.  We are also continuing our food projects through the development of a regional Black farmer network, and through the growth of regional food partnerships with Central State University, the University of Dayton, Dayton area cooperatives, The Nature Conservancy, and regional land trusts and farmers. Our recent $400k grant from the USDA will enable the establishment of a Center for Urban Agriculture in South Springfield that will include 7 acres of community garden space and an education center.

Our educational work with young people is blossoming with The Big Map Out partnership with Yellow Springs Schools, Nature camps, and after-school activities. We also continue to welcome interns from local colleges and universities as well as service and curricular partnerships.

Our conference and workshop schedule continues to expand, with new focuses, including a Nourishing Life conference in June focused on nutrition and an Arthur Morgan Legacy event in partnership with Antioch College. Also on the books are a Pathways to Regeneration Conference in November focused on water and our second annual Black Farming Conference in September.

The first podcast in a series funded in part by the Ohio Council for the Humanities will be published in a few weeks. Grounded Hope: From Highways to Hedgerows will explore the past, present, and future of regenerative farming in Ohio. We also plan to publish two issues of Agraria Journal in 2021—one focusing on nutrition and the other, on water.

All of this work is made possible by many partners and funders locally, regionally, and nationally. We welcome your participation and contributions to our programming, and we invite you to help us heed the Call and envision what CAN be in 2021 and beyond.

Happy New Year!

— Executive Director Susan Jennings