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Antioch College, Yellow Springs Residents Differ On Approaches To Campus Farm, Solar Array

Lambs grazing at the Antioch College campus farm
courtesy of Antioch College
Lambs grazing at the Antioch College campus farm

Today we begin a series of stories by WYSO Community Voices producers from the class of 2014. Our first story takes place in Yellow Springs, where Antioch College is creating an on-campus farm and building a solar array . The liberal arts college has a goal to create sustainable ways of living, but some villagers are unhappy with plans for the development of 35 acres on the south end of the campus. Antioch College student and Community Voices producer Wyatt Souers has the story.

On May 7th, Antioch College had a community presentation on their controversial five-year plan to expand their farm and build a solar array onto the golf course. Yellow Springs residents have traditionally used the land as a place for open space.  Antioch College president Mark Roosevelt began the presentation on a lighthearted note, but once residents began to speak, things became somewhat heated.

"I'm asking each and every one of you in here, how would you like to have cow and pig waste in your back yard? Don't lie, don't lie and say 'oh I wouldn't mind,' because you're lying," said Yellow Springs resident Betty Ford, and she wasn't the only to speak out against the farm.  Villager Steve Hetzler, as well as others were displeased with the college's plans.

"If you're gonna put animals in there, it's gonna be unsightly and they're going to have a cyclone fence around it, more than concrete. Because pigs dig under fences," said Hetzler.

The most controversial component of Antioch's vision for south campus is the plan to put more animals on the farm. Right now, the college has about fifty chickens and ducks as well as a small number of sheep. However, the college wants to get about one hundred-fifty chickens and ducks, forty ewes, thirty goats, five pigs, and two cows. The college also plans to expand its vegetable gardens and create a so-called "food forest," which is a sustainable farming method that aims to replicate natural systems.

Credit courtesy of Antioch College

I went out to the farm to see it for myself and talked to the manager, Kat Christen, about the farm and what it's going to look like if the college moves forward with its plans.

"So those are the chickens, they're grazing in a pasture," said Christen as we walked the grounds. "We just moved them to some fresh ground. And over here are the lambs, that we got about three weeks ago, and they're also out grazing happily in the grass. Over there is where we would like to put the solar panels; we're looking at about five acres of solar panels."

Antioch is planning on putting a 4.7 acre, one megawatt solar array onto the golf course as part of their goal to leave a net zero carbon footprint. Some villagers are concerned that the array will create an industrial atmosphere around the golf course, but the college has plans to beautify it by putting art on the fence surrounding the array. The farm and array will also be open to the public via walking trails that will go through the golf course.

"[The farm will be] accessible to the to the public along the trails and stuff. So it should be a really really beautiful farm," said Christen.

Antioch student, farm worker, and farm board member Marianthe Bickett is very happy to have a farm on campus.

"It's really nice to be able to go out to the farm and be doing something that's really physical and like immediately gratifying," says Bickett.  "Harvesting something that I'm gonna go eat later in the dining hall, its very cool."

However, some residents still remain displeased with the college. In fact, some of them have started a group called The Yellow Springs Open-Space Coalition, in opposition to the farm.

"We have a very strong connection to [the golf course]," said villager and coalition member Mike Kelly.  "And the disruption with the cutting down of the trees and the large equipment is very disturbing for us.  Our stance is we'd like to see it remain open and available to the public, the same way it's been since 1930, which means we don't want a lot of large animals and we prefer not the solar array."

In order for Antioch to move forward with their plans for the golf course they need to receive zoning approval from the Yellow Springs Planning Commission. On June 23rd, the commission approved Antioch's request to use five acres of the golf course for the solar array. Implementation of the solar arrays will begin soon.  However, it is unclear as to when, and if, Antioch will receive zoning approval to host large animals on the farm.  The Yellow Springs Open-Space Coalition is trying their best to prevent the college from hosting these animals. 

"We're going to continue to meet as an Open-Space Coalition," says Kelly. "And try to work with the village to make sure the college follows all of the applicable zoning laws."

It's not clear whether the college plan for large animals will meet local zoning requirements, but whatever happens, the college has a long road ahead of it if it is to complete its plans for south campus.

"Rome wasn't built in a day, and you don't build and design and plan and implement a uh farm project like that in a day, or even a year," says farm board member Nick Boutis.