Photo Caption: Athens OEFFA members hold a banner during the group’s meeting in Granville Saturday. Kip Rondy and his wife, Becky, winners of the OEFFA’s Stewardship Award, stand at the podium on the right.
The largest grassroots sustainable food organization in Ohio presented its Stewardship Award at the group's annual conference on Saturday to Athens County farmers "Kip" and Becky Rondy, co-owners of Green Edge Gardens in Amesville. Kip Rondy is also one of eight fracking injection well protesters who were arrested on Feb.1 near Coolville.
The protesters were charged on Feb. 3 in Athens County Municipal Court with criminal trespassing for temporarily blocking trucks from entering an injection well site where drilling wastewater from outside Athens County is being dumped by K&H Partners of West Virginia.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference is an annual event that brings together businesses and individuals who are committed to healthy and sustainable food production and distribution. This year the event took place in Granville east of Columbus.
Several Athens County residents took part in the conference, including Michelle Ajamian, co-owner of Shagbark Seed and Mill in Athens, Leslie Schaller of ACEnet in Athens and Master Chef Alfonso Constrisciani of Hocking College, among others. OEFFA presented Kip Rondy, and his wife, Becky, with the Stewardship Award, which honors outstanding achievements in sustainable agriculture. Green Edge Gardens, the Rondy's 120-acre farm near Amesville, is tended mostly by hand, employing 13 workers and several interns. They produce micro greens and other products year-round.
While the award was related to Green Edge Gardens' achievements in development of sustainable agriculture, it became clear in his remarks that Kip Rondy's mind was on the subject of fracking, specifically the dumping of waste-water from the fracking process in Athens County.
Upon acceptance of the award, he delivered a rousing speech to the friendly audience of around 500 on the subject of protecting water and air in southeast Ohio from contamination by energy companies.
He even unfurled a large banner, with the help of several friends, that read "Our Water, Our Lives," a reference to the risk of groundwater contamination posed by the fracking industry and the dumping of wastewater created in the process.
The Athens NEWS spoke with Rondy after the event.
"When they took the coal, it didn't bring us prosperity. So why should we believe it will be any different this time?" he asked, referring to natural gas extraction.
"The plague of Appalachia is the cycle of never being able to receive our fair share of the wealth that was taken from us (by extractive industries), and I'll be doggoned if we allow our area to become the dumping ground for the oil and gas industry," he said.
Event organizers did not know ahead of time that Rondy was going to turn the ceremony into a raucous anti-fracking rally, but they were not surprised by the importance of the issue among members of OEFFA.
"We are promoting policies that protect landowners' rights. We work with members and legislators to prevent environmental contamination (by the fracking industry) and make the process more transparent," said MacKenzie Bailey, policy program coordinator for OEFFA. "This is definitely an issue that is important to our members."