Farm project hopes to create a learning and treatment retreat by teaming up with AmeriCorps

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A group of young people from out of state, who are members of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), are working on a farm for the next month to help with an important initiative.

They are working on the One Health Initiative, which is trying to merge human medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental sciences into a proactive, holistic way of approaching solutions, Assistant Team Lead Liam Poitra explained.

“The farm is a good example of that, each creature that they keep on the farm helps the others,” Poitra said. “So when they plant plants they keep bees to pollinate the plants and then they take the extra seeds and then they can give that to the chicken and ducks and then they can use duck and chicken scraps for fertilizing the farming and garden again.”

The NCCC is a full-time, 10-month, residential, national service program in which 2,100 young adults 18-24 years old serve nationwide each year. They don’t tend to stay stationary and often move around the country during their 10 months.

The River 5 group was previously in Tuscaloosa, Alabama working for Habitat for Humanity but they’re now in Morgantown, because their services were requested by the Human-Animal Bond nonprofit and West Virginia University. Poitra said the team is working on two projects, one of which was helping to rebuild the farmhouse and other parts of the farm.

“This farm is going to be a retreat for people who have anxiety or PTSD,” Poitra explained. “It will also be an educational resource, Human-Animal Bond hopes to turn it into an educational farm for classes and children to come out and they can learn about food production, well-being, animal care and all kinds of different things that you can really only learn on a farm.”

Poitra said they have been removing and putting up fencing, and doing other odd jobs that the previous NCCC team didn’t get around to. The other aspect of their work is research into using renewable energy to help island communities to turn saltwater into drinkable water.

The problem, Poitra said, is a lot of the time islands use fossil fuels and get the water but end up degrading their environment as a result, so they are in search of solutions to avoid that. The team is digging through scholarly journals and articles to see what they can learn.

“So by taking a One Health approach, we’re trying to create a database of energy networks, especially solar power, to power these water purification systems to help islands get clean water without damaging the environment that they have,” Poitra said.

The goal he said is to create a searchable database that can be used by island communities to get much-needed drinking water without destroying their environment.

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