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All operations and programs at Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice were suspended this February. Additionally, 30 staff members at the educational farm were placed on a three-month furlough. These decisions, made by Agraria’s board of trustees, stemmed from ongoing financial issues at the local nonprofit. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

Agraria Update | Executive Director Jennings, Board Treasurer Sidwell resign

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On Monday, April 24, the Board of Trustees of the Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice released a media statement updating the public on the status of the nonprofit’s temporary closure.

According to the statement, both Executive Director Susan Jennings and Board Treasurer Rich Sidwell have resigned.

The statement comes about two months after the 138-acre educational farm announced that it would suspend operations pending legal and financial counsel and that its approximately 30 employees would be furloughed for three months. At the same time, Jennings was placed on administrative leave.

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As the News reported in February, the decisions to furlough employees and suspend operations were made based on the organization’s financial precarity, despite its projected budget for 2023 being around $2.5 million. According to the April 24 statement, the board took “direct day-to-day control” of Agraria’s financing upon discovering that payroll and payroll taxes could not be paid in February.

The statement reads: “Upon intensive review of the finances with a certified public accountant and an attorney, the Board discovered it did not have a complete or fully accurate accounting of the direction of Agraria’s finances and day-to-day operations. As such, decisions about growth far outpaced Agraria’s ability to fund that growth. The Board now fully understands that the organization’s financial management structure was not updated to match the complex needs of a rapidly expanding organization that included many new employees and programs, multiple grants and recent loans.”

In addition to announcing the resignations, the statement reads that Agraria’s board has paid employee earnings and payroll taxes that were in arrears, which totaled about $200,000; the funds used to pay these debts, according to the release, were secured through donations.

Looking ahead, the statement lays out the board’s intention to focus on paying off debts to lenders and vendors. It also states that the board is working with “legal, accounting, strategic planning and communications support,” including The Dayton Foundation and The Yellow Springs Community Foundation, to “implement the highest level of safeguards for the organization.” The board also intends to create a strategic plan for fundraising, volunteering and organizational restructuring under the guidance of an advisory board.

“​​We cannot say that Agraria is on safe, stable financial ground yet, but we are working diligently towards that end, and to earn back the trust of the community,” the statement reads.

Formerly known as Community Solutions, Agraria has operated its farm on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road since 2017, hosting workshops, community events, conferences, markets and a variety of agricultural and land-based activities.

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2 Responses to “Agraria Update | Executive Director Jennings, Board Treasurer Sidwell resign”

  1. Peter Jones says:

    I’m sorry to hear this news, as so many in the regeneration community had held hope for Agraria, who with Community Solutions was an inspiring early leader in North America. I was a supporter myself even after moving to Toronto years ago. I also recognized the spirit of Arthur Morgan’s community-minded wisdom here as a historical process creating and living as the example of the earth-regenerating 21st century settlement. I hope to read news about its transformation into another viable project or outcome. Have active hope!

  2. Anthony Fitz says:

    Great write up

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