A small group of us stood under a tent at Nelsonville’s Final Friday event a few weeks ago. We were selling produce from the Chesterhill Produce Auction and advertising ways to get fresh, local produce right in town. One family approached the table and after scanning the array of produce we were offering, turned to ask who I assume was mom if the kids had ever had a peach before. Have the kids ever had a peach before? I’ve eaten peaches my whole life whether they were local or not; it’s just normal summer snack.
I couldn’t believe I was about to hand these kids their first peach ever. Unfortunately maybe it was a texture thing, but they were not at all satisfied with this new snack. Regardless, I was happy to have had a part in their exploration of local produce.
Moments like these are what have made this job so satisfying and fun. I’m half way through my service term as ACEnet’s summer AmeriCorps VISTA, and I’m so happy I stuck around Athens a little longer after being given this opportunity. My position involves producing videos for ACEnet (a small business incubator organization) and some of its partners and initiatives, and I also get to play a small role in working toward a more successful local food system in Nelsonville.
I got to combine food access work with multimedia work while also staying in one of my favorite places, so I’m not sure what could be much better. Athens and the surrounding towns are full of awesome food initiatives, like CFI’s YEAH Kids program that provides a summer job for kids that involves growing their own produce, processing it in ACEnet’s kitchen and selling finished food products at the Athens Farmers Market. I just bought some of their kimchi last weekend, and it was spectacular!
I also got to experience the Chesterhill Produce Auction for the first time. Though it took me three visits to build up the courage to bid on something in fear of accidentally buying 20 quarts of blueberries, it’s a whole new way to buy produce in bulk from the grower.
I’ve spent early mornings and summer evenings on beautiful farms whose food products make their way through ACEnet’s facilities in one way or another before being sold to the community, I’ve watched kids get excited about harvesting and cooking their own food, I’ve gotten to meet even more people in my community working on the sustainability of our food system and I’ve gotten to use my creative skills for a job I’m so passionate about.
Here’s a few photos of the work I’ve been doing so far:
I got to do a few product shoots for some of our food tenants.
Rural Action employees having fun for the filming of the Food Network video.
YEAH Kids! participants preparing food in the ACEnet kitchen
Chesterhill Produce Auction
The sunrise from the hilltop of Arcadian Acres farm was absolutely beautiful and worth getting up super early to shoot.
Chesterhill Produce Auction
Chesterhill Produce Auction goods!
Part of my position involves marketing the Nelsonville Farmer’s Market.
Spotted on my drive home from on on location shoot.
Rural Action and ACEnet employees working the Country Fresh Stop pop-up produce stand.
Four years have come and gone, and I find myself standing outside of a packed up apartment I’ve called home for the last two of my years at Ohio University. Just a few weeks before, I was preparing to leave Athens behind for the last time; I was about to move on from this little town now so near and dear to my heart.
Where in the world did four years of college, eight countries of traveling, countless nights spent without sleep but with wonderful friends, crazy adventures, too many nights out, two shitty dorm rooms, four internships, two roomies and a puppy, and so many bottles of wine go? Who knows, but I’ve been told life just picks up pace from here.
Luckily, just before graduation, I was given the opportunity to work with AmeriCorps here in Athens. Thank goodness I’ve been granted a little more time here and can eat Casa for at least a few more months. This place and its people have captured me more than any other place I’ve traveled, which is why for reasons beyond me at times, I kept buying that return ticket and making the drive back to Ohio, growing excited each time as I exited the highway to a view of South Green.
I am so incredibly thankful for my time here as a student. Though it came with loads of stress, lots of tears and an unhealthy amount of coffee, I learned so incredibly much. Of course our VisCom program is fantastic, but beyond that I met so many wonderful people here in Athens and all over the world. Thank you to all the people who have entered my life; you’ve each changed it bit by bit. As a good friend of mine said, “you always meet twice,” so I can’t wait to see you again.
Through all of this, I’ve come to learn what I am so passionate about along with visual storytelling: making sure every human gets the good food they deserve and understands why its so good. So now I being my “next” right where it started here in Athens.
I’m somewhere over the Atlantic between Lisbon and NYC and maybe I’ve had too many mini airplane wines or maybe I’m too sleep deprived, but I’m sitting between rows and rows of strangers all coming and going from different people/places/things, and I’m crying. I have yet to conquer the emotional stability part of traveling. I become way too attached to every person and new place I encounter, but I think this vulnerability is a wonderful thing, aside from bawling my eyes out next to strangers every time I get on a flight home.
I spent the first few weeks of the year in Spain. This spontaneous trip was maybe not the most responsible thing to do right before graduation with no job lined up, but I don’t regret one bit of it. I found super cheap tickets, which meant red eye flights and sleeping in airports, and I even had a whole day to wander around Lisbon, Portugal before arriving in Madrid.
Spain is like an entirely different world. I’m not one for big cities, but Madrid still managed to capture my heart. You can get completely lost wandering the narrow, cobblestone sidewalks for hours, which I did, every single day. When you look up from the endless shops and cafes, you see the beautiful, unique architecture of each building and balconies overflowing with plants and flowers looking out over the streets and sidewalks that seem to be constantly full of people and life. I spent so many afternoons sitting in a sunny plaza, sipping on coffee or wine, feeling more content than I have in quite a while.
So here I am on this plane questioning how long I can ever go in a single place with the friends I meet without falling absolutely in love with everything. I was only there for 2 weeks, and now I’m leaving confused and crying. I just had two full weeks of wonderful people, sunshine, adventure, wine and incredible beauty. Maybe I need to stop buying return tickets.
Now I’m left wondering where to go next.
As I settle down back in Athens I’ll post more about my recent adventures and more photos! For now here’s just a few shots of my trip from my film camera; excuse the insane amount of dust I couldn’t seem to get out of the scanner:
New and old friends in Segovia, Spain
Views from the castle in Segovia, Spain
Botanical gardens in Madrid, Spain
Sunset over Madrid, Spain
Mallorca Island, Spain
First stop on our island road trip!
Garden of Cats
Our cute little car for exploring the island.
Mountain goats in action!
Views from our Airbnb in Palma Mallorca, Spain
My last few months of work have involved everything from being surrounded by goats to driving all over snowy, downtown Pittsburgh instead of spending my spring break at the beach. Getting up at ungodly hours and spending entire days outside in the cold has proven to be well worth it though as I’ve gotten to produce some awesome projects.
Read on for little summaries of what I’ve been working on, or scroll all the way to the bottom and just watch some videos!
The first, which I completed at the end of last semester, I worked on in collaboration with Jackie O’s Barrel Ridge Farm. I wanted to explore the topic of food consciousness as I have had a growing concern in realizing most people have no idea where the food they are purchasing and eating is coming from. I like to know exactly what I’m putting into my body, but that’s just me. What better source to discuss this idea with than a small, local farm providing food directly to local businesses and customers? The people and the goats I got to hang out with were pretty cool too.
The next project led myself and a few other students to Blue Rock Station in Philo, Oh. to what has been referred to as the “trash house.” This home is made entirely from trash and recycled building materials along with a lot of the other structures on the property. The husband and wife creators behind the property use their home as a way to educate others on the many steps you can take to live a more sustainable lifestyle, from simply changing the way you interact with the world around you to building the foundation of your house out of tires. Also, a few baby goats were born during the period of time we spent shooting this project so of course I was SO HAPPY.
Most recently I’ve been shooting for this year’s Soul of Athens production, a student-run multimedia piece put together each spring. This year’s mission is to explore what makes the region of Appalachia home and why people choose to stay here. Many people are unaware that this region runs from New York all the way down to Alabama, and our group decided to cover the WHOLE thing. I pitched the idea of exploring Pittsburgh, the region’s largest urban center, to discover not only why it became such an industrial hub, but also why many chose to remain there even after the city was thoroughly polluted and then abandoned by the industry. Sneak a peek at the intro (thanks for getting up at 4:30 in the morning for this one with me mom) and a little behind the scenes!
Keep checking out my website for my most up-to-date projects too: http://alexandriapolanoskyphoto.com
We Are What We Eat
Introduction for Soul of Athens
You’ve been accepted to your dream study abroad program. You’ve got your trip entirely planned out. You’ve applied for scholarships. You’ve started packing your suitcase(s). And then, your parents decide it’s no longer a good idea for you to go. You were about to get on a plane in a few weeks and fly off to the most incredible experience of your life, now what?!
We’ve probably all experienced this obstacle at some point in our process of preparing to go abroad. It’s only natural for our parents to worry about us, so why in the world would they let us get on a plane and fly to the other side of the world for a couple months where they might not be able to call us every single day?
I, being the youngest of three girls and never having left the country before, experienced this for months leading up to my semester abroad, but here I am, alive and well back home after an amazing six months in South Africa. So have no fear, it can be done. (However, I suggest not mentioning to your parents if you jump off of a bridge or swim with sharks until afterward.)
Approach this obstacle calmly and logically. If they are concerned about the location you’ll be traveling to remind them of these few things:
- You cannot generalize a population. Unfortunately, you will run into the good and the bad no matter where you are in the world.
- You’ve done your best in trying to understand a place as much as you can before actually arriving there, whether it was through reading various books or contacting distant friends or relatives.
- You’ve gotten all of your shots and have read up on any other safety precautions regarding health in the country you’re traveling to.
- Admit that safety is a concern in some places you might travel to. Explain that you will be alert and smart when making decisions.
- Sit down together and research the organization you’re studying abroad through if it is not your home university.
- You put so much work into planning this time abroad. This is what you want to do, and your parents should trust that you know what’s right for you.
- You WILL listen to people’s safety advice. You will not be an over-confident college student who knows everything and is invincible. If someone suggests you should not walk alone at night, you WILL NOT walk alone at night.
But how will they know that you’re safe?
- You’ll most likely have access to the internet at some point. It might not be nearly as much access as you have here, but you’ll be able to Skype. It’s free, they can see your living, breathing face, and you’ll be able to catch them up on all the awesome things you’ve been doing.
- Most programs have a program director or faculty from your home university leading the program. Make sure your parents have these phone numbers/email addresses before you leave. They will be able to contact these people with any messages or concerns; many of these people might be parents themselves and will understand and be willing to help.
Okay, but will you really benefit from studying in another county?
- Studying abroad makes you stand out on your resume and in job interviews. They want you to move out and get a job after graduation, right?
- A lot of your learning will take place outside of a classroom on this trip, which is far more beneficial than anything else.
- However, assure them that you will still be learning in a classroom too. Meaning you’ll actually go to class.
As hard as this might seem to them, they need to have enough confidence in you to let you go, and they’re going to worry every single day that you’re gone, but they need to understand how much of an impact this experience will have on you. You’ll grow far more independent from this program, and as long as you’re smart and aware of your surroundings, you’ll be just fine.
One Last Bit of South Africa Video Compilation
Words, photos and video cannot do justice to what I experienced during my time abroad, but I did my best to document my journey. I created a compilation of short video clips of my entire trip. I hope to bring those who were with me back and allow those who were not lucky enough to join me a glimpse of the incredible time I had.
(and then I’m done bragging, I swear)
*For those of you viewing my posts through emails, you have to click on the blog link to view the video.
Exploring Food Consciousness on Jackie O’s Farm
I’ve been spending lots of time on Barrel Ridge farm lately working on my final project for my multimedia class. After returning from South Africa to further pursue my environmental studies certificate, I’ve grown far more interested in sustainable lifestyles. I also love food. I’ve been searching for project ideas that combine these two loves of mine, and in the process I stumbled upon Barrel Ridge.
Barrel Ridge Farm, in Lodi Township in Southeastern Ohio, has been a resource for Jackie O’s, a local Athens, Ohio restaurant and brewery, since 2010. The farm became a part of their business recently in an attempt to make the practice of small farming flourish again. It is run by a small staff of two farm managers and a few interns and does its best to put what is right for the environment and community over what is right for their bank accounts.
My project will explore the journey of this small group of farmers as well as the journey their food takes. I hope to show the value of small farms for both the individual and the community and urge others to explore the possibility and importance in their own communities.
Working on this project has involved waking up before the sun multiple times over the past few weeks. I can say with absolute certainty that I am a morning person after my last few shoots at the farm (I didn’t even need coffee until I got home today).
I’ve honestly enjoyed getting up early and getting out there. There’s something invigorating about watching the sun slowly rise above the trees and stretch its golden light across a frost covered field. Being up for the sunrise even made the chilling 20 degree morning slightly more bearable last week. I get to hang out with some pretty cool people all morning, and by the time I’ve shot for a few hours and I head home, I still have the whole day ahead of me.
I can’t forget to mention hanging out with a bunch of goats (who enjoy ramming into your tripod and nibbling on your camera gear). Despite my love for goats, my first day of shooting at the farm involved getting my finger chomped on by one. I’ve since moved past this unfortunate event and am no longer offended by this furry creature’s appetite for anything but grass.
Here’s a few shots from the video so far: