Original Title: AHS seniors work with Rural Action
September 30, 2011 By Meelim_Lee Matrix Co-Editor in Chief Issue XXXVII: Issue 1: Page 6
While most students slugged away their summer vacation, AHS Seniors Eli Redfern and Grace Pauley worked as interns over the summer to impact the community.
Both Pauley and Redfern worked at Rural Action, a nonprofit organization focused on the Appalachian Ohio area. Although the two worked in different departments, they both expanded their knowledge about economic and environmental issues in Southeastern Ohio through the experience.
Redfern worked in the Sustainable Agriculture Department during the summer and focused specifically on the Chesterhill Produce Auction.
Working with the Chesterhill Produce Auction, Redfern joined a community that is not well-known to most AHS students.
Possessing a different atmosphere than that of the Athens Farmers Market with which many students are familiar. “Chesterhill Produce Auction is an auction in Chesterhill, Ohio, where farmers bring their produce to be put to auction. It is a very fair, accurate market value instead of artificially high or artificially low prices. It is twice a week, every Monday and every Thursday,” said Redfern.
“Basically, people bring in their food. An auctioneer goes through everything,” said Redfern. “The internship focused on helping the auction itself with numbers and organizing the quantities that were bought and sold.”
Through the internship and specifically the Chesterhill Produce Auction, Redfern was able to learn about additional benefits of sustainable agriculture. Redfern said, “These communities had been coal mining towns, but now [they] don’t really have anything going for them. [Sustainable agriculture] helps these poor rural communities get good food which aids their economic development. It also brings in very high quality, fresh, local produce. It also aids in a sense of community.”
Redfern stated, “Although I worked behind the scenes and I wasn’t the front man of the operation, I provided necessary support.”
Furthermore, the experience strengthened Redfern’s interest in sustainable agriculture. Redfern explained, “There is this myth that local produce is very expensive, but it’s super cheap.”
Because the summer opportunity helped him to expand his understanding about the impacts of sustainable agriculture in the local community, Redfern plans to continue volunteering at Rural Action during the school year when he has free time.
Similarly, Pauley broadened her understanding of a different issue that also has a great impact on Southeastern Ohio through her work with Rural Action.
Pauley worked in the Forestry Division of Rural Action serving as a research intern focusing on hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method that releases natural gas.
“Fracking” is a new issue in Ohio that has gained significant interest due to both its positive and negative potential implications. Pauley’s job at Rural Action was to help compile the new “tool kit” for fracking through research.
“As a non-profit organization, Rural Action is trying to redefine themselves as a community-education resource, and so all of the research I did was purely education. Anything that was biased we discarded. So there were no opinions reflected in anything we presented,” said Pauley.
As a result, Pauley was able to see fracking from a different perspective than most AHS students and faculty.
Furthermore, Pauley used this research as the base for many special projects within the community.
Throughout the summer, Pauley prepared for “community meetings” sponsored by the Farm Bureau.
A representative from Governor John Kasich’s office, a representative from United States Senator Sherrod Brown’s office, the Logan county auditor as well as many other Ohio residents attended these community meetings that presented informational presentations about fracking.
“I helped compile the resources for that presentation,” added Pauley. “It was my favorite thing all summer.”
The internship gave Pauley a new role within the community and helped her expand her knowledge about this rising issue. Similarly, Redfern was also able to see his work from a new angle.
Redfern extended his advice about internships. “[Students] should find something they are passionate about and seek out opportunities. They should do something that is about their community that will make a difference.”