Finding one’s “whey” on co-op and other ways

By Steve Duffy ‘77

It is July on a temporarily torrid and tropical Antioch College campus and in keeping in sync with the season there have been intervals of hot discussions.  (Thankfully, though, these hot discussions have been in an air-conditioned setting!) McGregor 113 has seen some extra laughter, some soul-searching moments, and moments of open-hearted candor.  Between Community Meetings, the Co-op Swap session, and this quarter’s Global Seminar on Education, McGregor 113 has served as a venue for both the strengthening of the foundations of community and the strengthening of an Antioch education, both academic and experiential. We are also learning how to live with and support each other in a world where we all find that it takes more and more, and yet everyone seems to wind up with less. How can we sustain ourselves in a world that is under a big painful financial “pinch?”

An emerging new tradition of a Co-op Swap is a fun gathering of students, staff, and faculty.  Students who are just returning from co-op come to the front of large, tiered McGregor 113 and tell their co-op stories. Of course, we ALL have told our own co-op tales to each other at one time or another.  The Co-op Swap however, adds some serendipitous dimensions.

Perhaps it slyly sneaks in some experience with public speaking which includes not only an ability to share your co-op adventure or misadventure with a large audience, but also field whatever unexpected questions might come from that audience.

That can be a knee-knocking experience and/or the source of great laughter. I heard one question to a person with a Dayton co-op. “What did you do for fun in Dayton?”  Since I live in Dayton I knew that might indeed be a truly tough question to answer! Not always the fun capital of the Midwest as far as I know!

I imagine this recent Co-op Swap session was a long one, since many of the 70 some folks from the class of 2016 had stories to tell about local, national, and even international co-ops. I squeezed in what time I could but then scooted back to the OK library. However, I really was like a moth drawn to a flame.  Since I have heard many alumni stories over the years, I had to hear a few more stories to see if the world felt the same as it did at the dawn of time.   I can say that because I am now closer to 100 than I am to one!  While I was at the Co-op Swap session I heard Cleo van der Veen ’16 talk about her work with the United Nations Foundation and its’ Better World Campaign.  Cleo is now somewhat of an expert on Syria and Iran. Thanks to Karen Mulhauser ’65, Cleo had a great D.C. learning experience, a good paycheck, and free housing.

I also listened to Brittany Parlin ’16, who had previous experience at a small organic farm in Maine where she worked some in the making of organic cheeses.  She found a local co-op at Young’s Jersey Dairy, that hallowed place where Antiochians from many decades have made late-night pilgrimages for warm gooey glazed donuts, pecan rolls, milkshakes, or ice cream.  I remember when a scoop was 12 cents. Today that same scoop, according to Brittany is $2.85.

Brittany did some customer service but actually spent much time behind the scene, so to speak, making oceans of fresh strawberry ice cream and other flavors.  She also found her way to the intricate and technically complicated process of making mass quantities of cheese.  She shared her co-op final reflection paper with me and some of it reads more like chemistry than something culinary.  Who would guess that so much math might be involved? Around 1,300 pounds of milk, timing, ambient temperature and humidity, the use of cultures, measurements of calcium chloride, rennet, salt ,and more measuring of time, temperature and pH—followed by strenuous separation and compacting of curds and whey.

It turns out that cheese making in giant quantities is strenuous and complicated work involving separation, extraction, and compaction.  After all that chemistry involved there was also plenty of physical labor. Each batch of 1300 pounds of milk produces 146 lbs. of cheese.  (Young’s still has cows that live natural lives sans hormones and other chemicals.) It turned out that problem solving on the job was more than math. It may have involved ergonomics. Brittany was smaller in stature than the men who had been making cheese at Young’s.  So figuring out when to use a step stool or something else when stretching or leaning into a giant vat became part of that job’s problem solving. Brittany attended Dan Young’s customer service seminars and actually learned much about being on the customer side of the business as well.  She also provided Young’s with some packaging ideas for products and had ideas about how to recycle the oceans of whey that remains as waste product. Brittany’s big work ethic overshadowed her small size and she has the promise of a longer term part-time job as a cheese maker.  Also, the constant lifting of heavy bags of milk and other products finds her toned up.  She made $10 an hour and lived in Yellow Springs and managed to save a small amount of money.

Last week in between Community Meetings and the Co-op Swap, the global seminar in education did a campus-wide educational scavenger hunt; dozens of students made the rounds through the library asking different demographics the following question: “What does it mean it to be educated?” My first thought was “WOW, now that’s some question!”  I gave them a quick one-sentence answer but should really have immediately asked that same question of them! Since Co-op Swap I have returned the favor by asking students about what they may have learned or earned on their co-ops. It seems like many jobs pay less and everything costs incredibly much more especially in some big cities.

One of my library workers, Charlotte Blair ’16 managed to find a co-op with a former library worker Olivia Leirer ’08 who is now executive director of New York Communities for Change (NYCC) in Brooklyn which works with community members from the different boroughs to advocate for living wages, better educational systems, Hurricane Sandy housing relief, foreclosure prevention, and the housing crisis. Before Charlotte went to NYC, an alumna from 1992 sent us weekly electronic lists of reliable rental for the Bushwick area of Brooklyn.  We read through and almost everything was well over $1,300 a month. Stunning, I thought! At first Charlotte spent some time and big money commuting from a relative’s house in New Jersey. I was aghast at even the bus fare for an hour bus ride from New Jersey to the Port Authority—$11.25. Add to that a monthly subway pass of more than $100.  By the way, when I told Charlotte and others about buying subway tokens they just hooted! Tokens must have been for the prehistoric!

Charlotte eventually found lodging at a Quaker boarding house, the Pennington, in the East Village. It included utilities and dinner, but still costs $1,200 per month.  How does one ever come back from the big city with some co-op savings? As a dinosaur, I remember when two fellow Antiochians rented a dingy old walk-up in the East Village during fall of 1967 for $64 per month. New York and the East Village certainly have changed.

Hopefully some of you Antiochians will continue to find leads to good paying co-ops and to housing that is affordable and safe. As Antioch College starts to grow bigger, all those leads are so wonderful and helpful.

In between hearing other co-op stories, I am also hearing lots of Spanish. The area near the library coffee pot/snack bar where Japanese was heard all last winter is now Español. Hay mucho cambio en este mundo, no?

Statistics, cell biology, chemistry, and photography are on this week’s menu, and there has been some talk about the language of personal financial literacy. 

A couple of changes or corrections are in order from a couple of previous “Grazings.”   The mini fruit forest near the Curl Gym (the new Wellness Center) has migrated to North Hall. Some geothermal lines may be going in by the old gym and it makes more sense for Chef Isaac to have a fruit forest outside his window in North as part of Antioch Kitchens. If he needs to make a plum sauce, he can just stroll right outside. Also in the last “Grazing” story from Reunion, I had reported that CO2 was 400 parts per billion.  As an old dinosaur that is closer to 100 than one, I thought I heard the word billion, but in reality, it is million. So that CO2 problem is 1,000 times worse. Thanks to David Goodman ’69 for letting this old Buffalo know that.

Well, dear reader, I hope a summer sojourn might have you visit.  The campus is vibrant; the Wellness Center is rapidly becoming a reality. Maybe someone will tell you their co-op story and you can tell them yours.  And if you have $2.85 there is always a scoop of Young’s Ice Cream for you along the whey!