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Financial audit reveals Yellow Springs nonprofit Agraria accumulated large amount of debt

Alejandro Figueroa
Agraria holds educational programs for young people and beginning farmers at their 138-acre property west of Yellow Springs.

Yellow Springs, Ohio nonprofit Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice suspended operations in February and furloughed staff. An audit revealed the nonprofit accumulated a large amount of debt and operated at a significant deficit last year.

Agraria, formerly known as Community Solutions, does educational programs for young people and beginning farmers at its 128-acre farm west of Yellow Springs.

The nonprofit had grown exponentially during the past few years with about 30 full-time employees and several contract workers.

But, Board Vice President Rebecca Potter, said that growth far outpaced the grants and funding Agraria was receiving to support its staff and programming.

“It grew very, very fast. The grants that it got required new staffing, new programming that put it behind in a number of ways and other kinds of investments,” Potter said.

After Agraria's board learned about the nonprofits deficit it began conducting a financial audit. The audit, which Potter said is still ongoing, discovered the board did not have a complete or fully accurate accounting of Agraria’s finances.

“The Board now fully understands that the organization’s financial management structure was not updated to match the complex needs of a rapidly expanding organization that included many new employees and programs, multiple grants, and recent loans,” read a statement released by the board.

One of the main priorities is to address the nonprofits debt, which includes about $1.5 million in mortgage loans, according to Potter.

The nonprofit has also since laid off its staff and paid back wages owed to them, totaling about $200,000. It still has mortgages and other debts on contract projects.

Some details are unclear, however, the nonprofit disclosed it will take about $16,000 a month to keep Agraria financially sustainable and to keep paying off the debts it owes.

Potter said the nonprofit still plans to keep its 128-acre farm but it does have other properties outside of Yellow Springs the board is considering making use of for revenue. Potter pointed to two empty lots near Fulton Elementary School in Springfield that Agraria owns as an example.

The board is now working with expert legal, accounting, strategic planning, and communications professionals to organize its finances. It’s unclear when the nonprofit will be fully back in operation.

“We cannot say that Agraria is on safe, stable financial ground yet, but we are working diligently towards that end, and to earn back the trust of the community.” According to a statement from Agraria’s board.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943