Kenny Lackey reflects upon his time at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center near Little Rock, Arkansas. Kenny writes:
On a typical morning I rise, spend a sacred moment with coffee, feed and water the goats and chickens, water the greenhouse, raised beds, and row crops, and then in similar fashion I can be found watering down walls at a large, unusual looking structure not far from the gardens. They’re lime plaster walls and require water three times a day to prevent setting, which would stymie the lime crystals’ growth.
The majority of my time over the past month was invested in this strange new building at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center, a straw bale building dubbed the Eco Center. Straw bales are a primary source of insulation in terms of availability and tradition—while perhaps today we consider it an “alternative” material, in fact straw structures date to the Paleolithic age. Still, the Eco Center’s novelty is underscored not only by the relative rarity of straw bale insulation today, but the building’s other systems as well: adobe flooring in the living quarters, solar power, and thermal flooring heated by a large wood stove. It will be an off-the-grid educational facility intended to educate and inspire its visitors to be mindful of resource consumption. The utilities room is much larger than most with the idea of showcasing building’s systems rather than hiding them.
Although my role so far involves only informal outreach and education, it’s a joy to work on a project that I know will touch many lives in the coming years. Solar Under the Sun, an international non-profit that trains groups to install solar powered water filtration systems in the developing world, will utilize this space as their campus, and other groups will stay year round experiencing a variety of programming options run by Ferncliff. The hours are long and even after a month I feel that I’m still riding up a steep learning curve, but it’s for this reason that my memory now turns to the conclusion of Spinoza’s Ethics, one of my favorite works in western philosophy: “All excellent things are as difficult as they are rare.”
Lastly, the Energy Corps Arkansas team came to stay at Ferncliff last week. It was a special pleasure to relax with my cohort for a couple days of good food, conversation, and music. Through their presentations I felt rejuvenated in our shared sense of values and mission, which we might otherwise struggle to tease out of our daily work lives. The work of Energy Corps—and of AmeriCorps more broadly—is difficult, and unfortunately the choice to turn towards service is increasingly rare.
Born and raised on the Virginian peninsula, Kenny took an early interest in the environment through the farmland and Chesapeake waterways and frequent trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains. After graduate studies in Boston focusing on Philosophy and Theology, he volunteered on a Pennsylvania farm that altered the course of his life and his relationship to the natural world. Within a year, he transitioned to life as a full-time farmer. After one season apprenticing in New York, Kenny moved to Arkansas to work as a farm education volunteer with Heifer Ranch. Kenny is thrilled to join Energy Corps with a shared vision of sustainable living, environmental awareness, and community engagement.