Energy Corps member Kenny Lackey, serving at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center, describes projects he has worked on with Americorps NCCC and other partners. Kenny writes:
My arrival at Ferncliff coincided with the first round of service for Water Four, an NCCC team from the Denver campus. They occupied a home on one side of the camp’s central lake, and I took residence in a cabin on the opposite shore. Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center is located in west Little Rock, although it’s misleading to say so as the winding, forested drive out feels much more country than city. Established in 1937, Ferncliff over recent years developed sustainable practices as a natural extension of its traditional camp lifestyle. Today, this includes geothermal heating, incorporation of solar power (including a solar golf cart and solar workshops), stack wood cabins, recycled carpet, a rain cistern for the raised bed garden and blueberries, motion sensitive lighting, a VW truck converted to biodiesel – all with an eye to stewardship over this verdant, diverse patch of the southwest. Water Four would often remark on their hope that Ferncliff, as their first stop, had not set the bar too high for the remainder of their service year.
We were mutually eager to learn about each others organizations and projects, and decided that we should consider ourselves bureaucratic cousins. A group of four began working with me in the garden. Together we planned out a 20’ x 24’ hoop house with wood end frames and PVC hoops and purlins. As our plot, we chose ground near to the existing farm—consisting of raised beds, a chicken coop, compost bin, and goat pen—and construction proceeded smoothly. The finished product will provide Ferncliff with nearly year-round lettuce, as well as early tomatoes. As of late January, the soil inside is almost ten degrees warmer than soil outside just a foot away. I will also keep 50 gallon barrels filled with water to serve as passive temperature control. Meanwhile, others in Water Four added on two sizable bays to the main barn, yielding much needed increased storage. During their last few days at Ferncliff I tilled up a fifth of an acre just north of the greenhouse to be planted in row crops this spring and discussed the farm plan with them.
These early months have highlighted how essential collaboration is going to be for me, and what a wonderful resource Energy Corps has in other AmeriCorps members. I worked closely with NCCC, and have also met and plan to work with VISTA members in various stations throughout Little Rock. I have also found the Arkansas Energy Office and City Hall to be willing and open partners regarding future weatherization and outreach projects, as well as several non-profits, central Arkansas farms and community gardens, and the Our House homeless shelter. At Ferncliff, I will rely on the help of staff, councilors, and campers to run the garden from transplants through to harvest. I hope to play a significant hands-on role in the construction of the 5200 sq. ft. EcoCenter. In short, in every day of service what strikes me the most is the correlation between effectiveness and interdependence—where I work alone I accomplish less, and where partnerships develop so too does the possible scope of “getting things done for America.”
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.