Meet the 2015 Fellows

Don Anderson

Don Anderson

Don Anderson teaches at a small public school in northwest Oregon. Besides journalism, he teaches college English, AP chemistry and forestry. He got his love of classics from Reed College, his love of science from Oregon State University and his love of teaching from George Fox University. Nine times a year, his students create a publication, The Jay, which has a circulation of about 1,000. The Jay fulfills the need of a small newspaper and literary magazine for the community of Jewell, where he teaches. He also works for The Daily Astorian, a local newspaper in Astoria, Oregon.

Greg Anderson

Greg Anderson

Greg Anderson has been involved with scholastic journalism for 28 years. As a young English teacher, he was asked whether he would take over the student newspaper, and he naively said, “Sure; that sounds interesting.” Little did he know that his life would never be the same – but for the better! He advised the student newspaper at San Manuel High School and Sedona Red Rock High School in Arizona and currently advises the Arapahoe Herald newspaper, the Calumet yearbook and the Spear broadcast and video team at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. He launched the student media website this year.

Lindsay Benedict

Lindsay Benedict

Lindsay Benedict is in her fourth year of teaching a full schedule of journalism and broadcast journalism classes at McLean High School in northern Virginia, where she advises The Highlander newsmagazine/website and WMHS News, a live morning show. She loves working with students to create multiple publications and was honored to receive the JEA Rising Star award this year. Lindsay received her undergraduate degree in English/international studies/Spanish (with a minor in film studies) from the University of Idaho and earned her Master of Education from Portland State University. Her hobbies include traveling, reading/writing, and hanging out with her husband and two cats.

Tracy Brogelman

Tracy Brogelman

Tracy Brogelman has been teaching for 10 years at Grafton High School in Grafton, Wisconsin. She teaches English 9; English 10/American literature; and professional writing, a course that produces the yearbook and an online news magazine. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota and a master’s in teaching from Cardinal Stritch University, where she has also taught in the post-bac education program. Her husband, Ryan, also teaches at Grafton, and they have two children, ages 6 and 8. In her spare time, she tries to keep up on reading, running and DIY home projects.

Kristi Calvery

Kristi Calvery

Kristi Calvery is an English and journalism teacher at Conrad High School in Conrad, Montana. She graduated from Conrad High School in 2002, received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Great Falls in 2007 and finished her master’s degree in May of 2015. She is the adviser for the high school newspaper, The Cowboy Chronicles. In her free time, Kristi enjoys traveling, camping, writing and reading.

Sandra Coyer

Sandra Coyer

Sandra Coyer is an Advanced Placement senior literature teacher and publication adviser at Puyallup High School in Puyallup, Washington. She has advised The Viking Vanguard newspaper for the past 16 years and its website counterpart for the past three years. Next year, she will be teaching Broadcast Journalism I &II, a course she designed, for the first time. She graduated with a communications degree from the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University in 1998 and a master’s in teaching from Grand Canyon University in 2004.

Marissa D'Orazio

Marissa D’Orazio

Marissa D’Orazio teaches English 11 and journalism at Centreville High School in Fairfax County, just outside of Washington, D.C. She is the adviser of Centreville’s student-run newspaper, The Sentinel. Although she previously sponsored a middle school publication, 2014-15 marked her first school year as a high school adviser. She graduated from University of Virginia, where she worked as an editor on The Cavalier Daily and earned a bachelor’s degree in English. After graduation, she began teaching secondary English and earned her master’s in education from UVA, as well. She is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate in fiction writing at George Mason University.

Leslie Dennis

Leslie Dennis

Leslie Dennis is the assistant director the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association and Southern Interscholastic Press Association, which includes the Carolina Journalism Institute. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing concentration and a master’s degree in American literature. She is an avid reader, especially of modern American literature, and film buff with a propensity toward 1940s and ’50s foreign films. Most of her time outside scholastic journalism is spent with her husband and three cats.

Kaitlin Edgerton

Kaitlin Edgerton

Kaitlin Edgerton is an English teacher at Madison High School in Madison Heights, Michigan. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in English and Master of Arts in Teaching in secondary education from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She currently advises The Aquilla, a print and online newspaper, and The Madisonian, a yearbook publication, at Madison High School. She is a member of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. She regularly participates in journalism conferences at Michigan State University and has participated in MIPA’s judging day. In addition to teaching journalism, she teaches AP literature and composition and ninth-grade literacy and is the adviser of the National Honor Society.

Marcia Erickson

Marcia Erickson

Marcia Erickson is a seventh-grade world history teacher and a ninth-grade introduction to journalism teacher at Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. She advises the school newspaper, Eye of the Tiger, and the yearbook club, Tiger Tales. She also serves as a library assistant. She received her Master of Education from Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and she graduated from Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Science in Education in comprehensive social studies with a psychology concentration and an English minor. She is also certified in English, communications and library science. Marcia is an avid geocacher and enjoys travel.

Michelle Fields

Michelle Fields

Michelle Fields has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in education. After a 12-year career in the insurance industry where she supervised employee publications, she took time off with her children. During this time, she worked part-time as a reporter for a local weekly newspaper, The Vermont Standard. Michelle began teaching high school English in 2006 and started a school newspaper, Woodstock Union High School’s The Buzz, in Woodstock, Vermont, a year later at the request of several students. When not teaching journalism, English I or AP language and composition, Michelle loves to hike, read, cook and travel.

Susan Gray

Susan Gray

Susan Gray has advised The Stampede newspaper and The Hoofbeats yearbook at Wichita Southeast for 17 years. She received a Bachelor of Science in English and journalism and a Master of Arts in English from Emporia State University and a teaching license from Wichita State. The Stampede was named All-Kansas twice, and Hoofbeats was featured in the Jostens Look Book twice. She received the Ad Astra advising award from the Kansas Scholastic Press Association in 2012. Gray worked externships with The Wichita Eagle and The Newton Daily Kansan. Married with three daughters, she enjoys music, writing poetry and running. She ran her first marathon last year at 47.

Kristen Hamilton

Kristen Hamilton

Kristen Hamilton has been an English teacher for the past 10 years and currently teaches language and literature honors, college literature, multicultural literature and writing enrichment at Roslyn High School in Roslyn, New York. She also advises the school newspaper, The Hilltop Beacon. Next year, she will be launching a journalism class, which will be a first for Roslyn High School. She received her bachelor’s from the University of Chicago and her master’s in education from Queens College. Outside of teaching, she is an enthusiastic runner who enjoys spending as much time outdoors and at the beach as possible.

Laura Harrawood

Laura Harrawood

Laura Harrawood grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism at the University of Montana in Missoula and her Master of Education in English education from Vanderbilt University. She moved to Lexington, Virginia, in 1989 for her first teaching job with Rockbridge County Schools; earned a Master of Arts in creative writing from Hollins University; and has taught for 26 years in the same system, focusing on junior English, creative writing, expository writing and journalism. She founded the Rockbridge County High School student newspaper, The Prowler, in 1993 and started an online version of the paper this year. Divorced, she loves skiing and riding horses.

Niki Hively

Niki Hively

Niki Hively is a second-year journalism teacher at Newton High School in Newton, Iowa. She graduated from Central College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and English. She then completed a Master of Arts degree in secondary education in 2013 and began teaching high school journalism. She now teaches graphic design, photojournalism and introduction to journalism and advises two publications, The Cardinal Chronicle (newspaper) and The Newtonia (yearbook). She also coaches the speech team and does some freelance photography work. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, camping and boating.

Michelle Huss

Michelle Huss

Michelle Huss has taught for nine years at two different schools. She currently teaches 21st century journalism, computer applications and computer graphics in addition to advising The Tiger Print newspaper and Reflections yearbook at Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kansas. After graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in journalism and business education, she earned her master’s degree in business education from Emporia State University. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys photography and traveling. She also likes to work in the garden and spend time at the lake.

Jordyn Kiel

Jordyn Kiel

Jordyn Kiel just completed her first year of teaching and advising in the high school newsroom. After graduating from the University of Missouri in 2013, she came right back to her high school alma mater to take on an incredible opportunity teaching with her own high school adviser. She teaches all introductory-level journalism and photojournalism courses and advises the Excalibur yearbook. Although she’s just beginning her teaching career, she’s excited to see where the ever-changing world of journalism takes her. Her time away from students usually involves family and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

Peter Laub

Peter Laub

Peter Laub advises The Lasso at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia, where he also teaches journalism, creative writing and English. He has a Bachelor of Arts in communication from La Salle University and a Master of Education in English education from The Ohio State University. He devotes his free time to his garden, baseball games and trying to not be a total screw-up as a father.

Lina Mai

Lina Mai

Lina Mai has been an educator in New York City for over a decade. Currently, she teaches journalism and humanities at Frank McCourt High School, located in Manhattan. She advises the publication of a print and online student newspaper, McCourt News. Born in Belarus, she was raised near Princeton, New Jersey. She has a master’s degree in education through the NYC Teaching Fellows program. In addition, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Cornell University and a master’s degree in journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Christina Mitro

Christina Mitro

Christina Mitro teachers English 10 at Langley High School in northern Virginia, where she also is the adviser for The Saxon Scope, Langley’s student-run newsmagazine. She has an undergraduate degree in vocal performance from The Catholic University of America and holds her Master of Education from George Mason University. When she is not in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her husband and her year-old daughter, Lucy. They enjoy spending time on the patio at Starbucks or splashing around at the local swimming pool.

Rebekah Morse

Rebekah Morse

Rebekah Morse has advised high school publications in Kansas for 10 years, three at McPherson High School and seven at Wichita High School Northwest. She teaches 21st century journalism, fundamentals of graphic design, photo imaging, digital media and technology, and project management for communications. She advises the Northwest Explorer newsmagazine and website, as well as Northwest’s yearbook, the Silvertip. She is a mother of two, runs to manage her stress levels and enjoys photography.

Ryan Rivera

Ryan Rivera

Ryan Rivera earned a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Southern California in 2008. In a very short journalism career consisting mostly of internships, Ryan reported for the Orange County Register; OC Weekly; Huffington Post; and The Cape Argus in Cape Town, South Africa. Ryan thought he left journalism behind in 2009 when he began teaching math, but when the veteran journalism teacher at Burbank High School retired in 2013, Ryan threw his hat in the ring and took over as adviser for The Burbank Bulldog student newspaper. His current teaching schedule consists of four periods of geometry and one period of journalism.

Lindsey Ross

Lindsey Ross

Lindsey Ross has been an adviser for five years and just completed her first year at Gardner Edgerton High School in Gardner, Kansas. She advises The Blazer newspaper and The Trailblazer yearbook and teaches 21st century journalism and teen leadership. Ross received her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and is working toward her master’s in journalism education through Kent State University. She also works for the University of Kansas athletic department tutoring student athletes. When she is not working or doing homework, she enjoys watching TV/Netflix, reading and snuggling with her Yorkie, or attending KU sporting events.

Julie Rowse

Julie Rowse

Julie Rowse teaches journalistic writing, photojournalism and publication design, and popular culture studies at Bellevue West High School in Bellevue, Nebraska. She advises the print newspaper, The West Wind, and the news website, The Thunderbeat. She received her Bachelor of Science in secondary education, language arts endorsment, from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and her Master of Arts in popular culture from Bowling Green State University. Julie also teaches piano lessons and serves on the education committee of a local nonprofit cinema. She enjoys reading and watching movies, and she loves watching sports.

Jacob Savishinsky

Jacob Savishinsky

Jacob Savishinsky is a New York native, now in Seattle at Raisbeck Aviation High School. He is a co-founder of the school (2004) and founder of the school’s Phoenix Flyer newspaper in 2009. In addition to journalism, he has taught social studies, civics, government and modern world history to freshmen and sophomores and literature to sophomores and juniors. He is nationally board certified in social studies and facilitates cohorts of teachers pursuing their certification. Outside of school, he is a professional musician and music producer, as well as a husband and father of a beautiful 2-year-old daughter.

Sharon Schmidt

Sharon Schmidt

Sharon Schmidt is a teacher and associate union delegate to the Chicago Teachers Union at Steinmetz, a neighborhood high school where she teaches English and journalism and advises the Steinmetz Star. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English education and a Master of Arts in reading. She is a reporter for Substance, a newspaper covering public education, edited by her husband. She has a 26-year-old stepson and two sons, ages 10 and 13, who she has opt out of most standardized tests. She coaches park district baseball, teaches Sunday School at Loop Church, reads lots of fiction and is devoted to her dog.

C.E. Sikkenga

C.E. Sikkenga

C.E. Sikkenga recently wrapped up his 23rd year teaching at Grand Haven High School in West Michigan. For the past 15 of those years, he has advised THE BUCS’ BLADE, GHHS’ student publication. A past president of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, he currently serves as the organization’s newspaper chair. A 1992 graduate of Michigan State University, he roots rabidly for the Spartans and Detroit Tigers. With what’s left of his free time, he can often be found crate-digging as he haunts his favorite record stores or enjoying leisurely strolls with his ancient beagle, Booker.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith advises the Cardinal Columns and Fondy Today at Fond du Lac High School, where he has taught English and journalism since 2010. Before becoming an educator, he spent two years as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in suburban Washington, D.C. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also currently a member of the board of directors for both the Kettle Moraine Press Association and the Northeastern Wisconsin Scholastic Press Association and a member of the JEA Principal Outreach Committee.

Kelly Sparks

Kelly Sparks

Kelly Sparks, a 24-year veteran teacher, has taught English and journalism at South Ripley High School in Versailles, Indiana, all of her teaching career. She currently teaches English 9, English 9 Honors, beginning journalism and advanced journalism. The Raiders Riot is the publication she advises and is in her first full year of publishing an online school newspaper. She is a graduate of Hanover College with a communications major and an English minor. Hobbies include watching her children compete in a multitude of sports and other activities and scrapbooking.

Nichole Stanford

Nichole Stanford

Nichole Stanford currently teaches English and creative writing at Madison High School in Rexburg, Idaho. She is excited to start a journalism program this upcoming year. Her students will be running their publication through the school’s website and social media pages. She has her Bachelor of Science in English education and feels lucky to have worked as a newspaper editor for a year after graduation. One of her most interesting experiences was starting a small newspaper run by her students while teaching at a juvenile corrections facility. Her hobbies include following her four children around in their activities and reading.

Rob Sterner

Rob Sterner

A jack-of-all trades, Rob Sterner has taught thirteen different courses in his 11 years of teaching English at Hershey High School. Currently, he teaches college preparatory English 10, Journalism I and science fiction literature. Next year, he takes on Journalism II and the school newspaper, The Broadcaster, which is moving online. He is an assistant cross country coach and a blogger for the Center for Teaching Quality, a national education research and policy nonprofit. He found his way to teaching journalism through his technical background thanks to stints as a wedding photographer’s assistant and as a self-taught digital filmmaker.

TJ VanDyke

TJ VanDyke

TJ VanDyke has been teaching high school for six years and is currently teaching advanced English 10 and journalism. He holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in education from the University of Tennessee. TJ returned to teach at his alma mater, Dyersburg High School, just two years ago and was bestowed the honor of being named sponsor of the Trojan Torch, an award-winning newsmagazine, when its long-standing sponsor retired. When not working with his students, TJ acts as youth minister at his congregation and loves spending time at home with his four daughters, ages 2-12, and his wonderful wife of 15 years.

Jason Wawrzeniak

Jason Wawrzeniak

An English teacher for 10 years at Penn-Trafford High School, Jason Wawrzeniak has also taught journalism and been adviser of the school newspaper, The Warrior, for the past nine. Prior to his teaching career, Jason worked in public relations for four years after graduating with a political science and English degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He currently resides in suburban Pittsburgh with his wife, Heather, and two children, Truman, 5, and Harper, 2, where he remains stubbornly loyal to Pitt’s perennially disappointing football and basketball teams.

Stephanie Weiss

Stephanie Weiss

Stephanie Weiss joined the teaching ranks 11 years ago at McDowell High School in Erie, Pennsylvania, where she uses her degree in journalism/mass communications, master’s degree in education and past experience as a writer/editor to create a hands-on atmosphere for her students. Her classes launched the school’s award-winning Trojan Times Online website in 2011. Others create video news for the Trojan News Network that broadcasts to McDowell classrooms daily. A recent addition to McDowell Media has been The Trojan Blitz, a bi-weekly sports news channel on YouTube. When she is not teaching, she enjoys photography and being crafty.

Joanne Wyant

Joanne Wyant

Joanne Wyant teaches ninth grade enriched English and writing for media at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, located in Stow, Ohio. She just completed her 14th year of teaching, and during this time, she has been been the adviser of the high school’s newspaper, The Stohion. She also taught and advised the news program, Stow Student News, her first six years as a teacher. She received both her bachelor’s degree in education and her master’s degree in administration from the University of Akron. She enjoys coaching her daughters’ softball teams and being involved with her four children’s activities.

The last hurrah: 35 teachers represent the last group of ASNE Kent State Fellows

Teachers from 22 states and the District of Columbia are part of the final year of the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute at Kent State University, a tradition that started in 2001. Although funders changed over the years, content became more digital and this year’s event hosts the teachers on campus for one week instead of the previous two, the basics haven’t changed all that much.

The 2015 group will still have a mix of theory and hands-on practice to help them launch new media outlets at their schools or reinvigorate ones already there. They will form maestro teams and get experience creating multimedia storytelling packages, something their students will be doing in the future.

In five weeks of online training before they arrive on campus, the teachers will have readings, activities and synchronous chat sessions between May 19 and June 19. These will give them a solid foundation of law and ethics, news values, advising approaches and more. They will also get to know each other some before they arrive in Kent July 12.

“This will help them jump-start their learning and mean they can dive right into their projects,” institute director Candace Perkins Bowen said.

Teaching the group along with Bowen are lead instructors John Bowen, H.L.Hall and Susan Hathaway Tantillo. They’ll be joined with newsroom and classroom pros like Susan Kirkman Zake, Bruce Zake and David Foster, who will help with the video and audio the teams will create. The Institute is administered by the American Society of News Editors through its Youth Journalism Initiative and funded with a generous grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

ASNE focuses on leadership development and journalism-related issues. Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, ASNE promotes fair, principled journalism, defends and protects First Amendment rights, and fights for freedom of information and open government. Leadership, innovation, diversity and inclusion in coverage and the journalism work force, youth journalism and the sharing of ideas are also key ASNE initiatives. ASNE’s Youth Journalism Initiative, launched in 2000, provides journalism-related training and resources for teachers and students across the curriculum. Its goal is for every student to learn why news matters and acquire the skills needed to succeed as 21st Century citizens.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed more than $150 million to journalism initiatives nationally.

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Putting it all to use

by Kelly Sparks

I returned from the week long ASNE workshop with renewed energy and ready to get the school year started.  I am so excited to show my students my completed work and recite the 1st Amendment for them without flaws unlike my ASNE recitation. Funny how a group of people who are your age, some younger and some older, are enough to make you forgetful and anxious.

I thoroughly enjoyed working my maestro group, interviewing barbers, and learning so many things to teach my students.  I have already begun to teach them and I think they are a bit overwhelmed and lost from my spillage of all that I want to tell them in a matter of less than five minutes.  I am sure their heads are spinning…”wait a minute Sparks, ” we are trying to catch up.

After sharing our projects with them they are beginning to see exactly what I was talking about with how much we can actually do with our online newspaper.  They are now inspired to try Thinglink, Piktocharts, and even utilize their phones a little more with journalism and not just connecting with friends.

This is exactly what I wanted to learn from ASNE and I couldn’t have asked for better instructors and/or new friends in which to learn it.  Thank you all and the best of luck in your new self as a journalism educator.

UnCommon Barber Offers Fresh Perspective, Looks

by Kristen Hamilton

From afar, Ed Bankston looks like he’s all business.

He moves with a slow and deliberate precision that suggests an air of confidence. Bankston’s hands are gloved like that of a surgeon in the operating room, which is fitting given his tag name on his business card, which declares him “The UnCommon Barbersurgeon.”

Ed Bankston, barber at Leander’s Barber Shop, takes a break from cutting hair to show off his tattoo that features his “tools of the trade.” Clippers, scissors, and straight-edge razors are standard tools for barbers.

Ed Bankston, barber at Leander’s Barber Shop, takes a break from cutting hair to show off a tattoo that features his “tools of the trade.” Clippers, scissors and straight-edge razors are standard tools for barbers. (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

While he works, the black brim of Bankston’s fitted cap sits low over his eyes proudly displaying a straight razor emblem on the front. It echoes the tattoo on his arm highlighting his “tools of the trade” including clippers, scissors and a razor. His gruff, bushy beard nearly eclipses the rest of his face and is contrasted only by a noticeable softness around his eyes, which light up whenever he speaks, especially about being a barber.

Bankston has a lot of respect for his profession, and it manifests itself in an attention to detail instilled in him from a young age by his military father.

“I got a little OCD from the military,” Bankston explained. “My dad used to, if we were told to clean our room, he had the white gloves and he’d rub it across to see if there was any dust there.”

But this “OCD” works to his advantage in the barbershop where he said people appreciate his attention to detail and it’s one of the main reasons customers choose the barbershop over a chain shop or salon.

Bankston said what they do, especially the razoring, is not easily replicated in chain shops.

“This here,” he said motioning to a clean, crisp hairline he just finished edging with his clippers, “this right here is something that Great Clips can’t do. They don’t really have that art.”

Bankston took a step back to admire his own work, like an artist looking for a new perspective on his canvas, and after checking both sides he turned the clippers back on to make an adjustment.

He cuts smoothly and deliberately with quick flicks of the wrist and frequently steps back to make sure he’s pleased with the results. Because of this, a cut takes at least half an hour.

“This is a 30 minute service at least if you want it done right,” Bankston said. “A kid maybe is 15 minutes, but this is not a quick place to get a sandwich and go kind of thing.”

In other industries where speed is more important than presentation, Bankston’s methodical desire to get things “just right” was a hindrance.

“I worked at a lot of fast food places and that skill or quality always got me in trouble,” Bankston said. “I was never moving fast enough.”

At the barbershop, however, most of Bankston’s customers appreciate the time he puts in. And to those who get a little impatient he says, “This ain’t McDonalds like that.”

Changes and New Experiences

While the attention to detail he learned growing up in the military supplied Bankston with the mindset necessary to be a successful barber, the military also gave him his first taste of cutting hair. When his father was stationed in Germany during the late ’80s and early ’90s, the options for a stylish haircut on base were limited.

Bankston said he realized he would either have to sacrifice his personal style or learn to cut his own hair.

Bankston cuts an “even-steven” for a young client at Leander’s Barber Shop. Bankston says the cut is “mom’s favorite.” (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

Bankston cuts an “even-steven” for a young client at Leander’s Barber Shop. Bankston says the cut is “mom’s favorite.” (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

At that time, Bankston, as well as the other kids on base, wanted to wear flat-tops, or hi-top fades like the hip hop group Kid n’ Play, but military barbers weren’t willing or able to indulge them.

“The only problem was,” Bankston said, “military barbers couldn’t cut that style of haircuts.”

Bankston took to practicing these “cooler” cuts on his younger brother and eventually gained enough skill to cut his own hair as well as several other friends on base who preferred his cuts to the a classic military cut like the even-steven or buzz cut.

“I have a little brother four years younger than me, so I used to practice messing his hair up, putting lines in his hair and stuff until I got good,” Bankston said. “Then, when I got a little better I cut different people on the army base.”

However, Bankston said his love of cutting hair diminished as time went on. When his father’s assignment was relocated to Euclid, Ohio, Bankston said he reinvented himself.

“At a certain point I would hate for people to ask me to cut their hair,” he said. “I only really wanted to cut my own. But, by me moving a lot, being in the military, I got to change my identity. So, when I moved from Germany to Euclid, Ohio, I wasn’t the barber anymore. It was somebody else that was cutting hair.”

Bankston said his new identity wasn’t all positive, and as a teenager he “got into some trouble” and ended up with a record.

Despite this, Bankston turned himself around and went to Kent State where he became a self-professed history buff. His trouble as a teenager inspired Bankston to want to work with at-risk youth and ex-offenders.

“What I wanted to do in life was work with at-risk youth and help them get back on track if they went off track,” Bankston said. “Then I got into advocating for ex-offenders, because I was one, and it can be hard for some of us and some of us didn’t really deserve some of that treatment.”

Certain his dream job awaited him, Bankston studied public policy and hoped he could help change public opinion about those who had been previously incarcerated, but after graduation, he said he wasn’t able to secure a job in the field and instead worked a few odd jobs.

Still the idea of being a barber wasn’t an immediately obvious decision. Especially since he started losing his hair at 19 and no longer had to do much to cut his own hair.

“As I got older I lost mine, as you can see,” Bankston said lifting his fitted cap and revealing a shiny bald head that contrasts his full beard. “So there wasn’t need for me to do anything but a bald.”

Bankston lifts his hat revealing his bald head. Bankston says he has no sympathy for customers who are balding. (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

Bankston lifts his hat revealing a bald head. Bankston says he has no sympathy for customers who are losing their hair. “It ain’t me pushing you back, man,” he said. “It’s mother nature.” (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

Having lost his hair so early, Bankston understands how important it is for most men and what he can’t appreciate on his head he makes up for with his beard.

“I know how hair is for guys, its strength in a man,” he said. “This hair right here, this is my pride. I’m No-Shave November all year.”

Attending Barber School

After years away from the trade and fewer lucrative job options than he hoped, Bankston realized that he could put his old barbering skills and attention to detail to use.

“Finding a meaningful, paying job was becoming hard,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of different programs now for allowing ex-criminals to work, but back then it wasn’t that progressive or liberal. I did some odd jobs here and there and I finally just got to the conclusion that maybe I should try my luck at becoming a barber.”

Bankston saved the money necessary, approximately $10,000 for most barber schools, to enroll at Lake Erie Barber College in 2010 determined to brush up on his skills.

Here he had professors who further instilled in him a sense of pride and respect for the profession.

“When I first started off in my school I had one teacher that it was mandatory on all Saturdays to dress up with a shirt and tie,” Bankston said. “He wanted us to respect our craft.”

In the state of Ohio, barbers are required to have a license for which they must pass a state exam demonstrating their skills.

Although Lake Erie Barber College has since shut its doors, David Gail,The Director of Education at Ohio State Barber College said in an email Ohio requires 1800 hours of training by a licensed school to obtain a barber license.

“In barber school they teach us to do a lot that people don’t know,” Bankston said. “For instance, we’re taught how to hair color. We’re taught how to wrap a roller set. We’re also taught manicure. We can arch eyebrows. But at a barbershop in this kind of a setting most guys come in here and want a quick fix, so we don’t ever really get to use a lot of that stuff, but we are trained to do some of those things.”

One of the most useful skills Bankston learned in school was how to use a straight razor.

“I knew how to cut hair; I could fade, though my fade could use some improvement,” Bankston admitted with a knowing smile, “but I knew that I didn’t know to use a razor. So, when I went to barber school I learned you go with the flow of the hair strand. If the hair is growing in a downward motion then you shave in a downward motion.”

Posters hang in Leander’s Barber Shop providing customers with example cuts they can choose from. The shop caters to all types customers, even international students and other visitors, who may be more comfotable pointing to a picture than explaining what they want verbally. (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

Posters hang in Leander’s Barber Shop providing customers with example cuts. The shop caters to all  customers, even international students and other visitors, who may be more comfortable pointing to a picture than explaining what they want verbally. (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

Barber school also illuminated Bankston on the different types of hair and the different methods of cutting it. Bankston proudly works in an “international shop” where he said “we can cut anybody’s hair.”

As if on cue, a Kent State student from Cambodia wanders into the shop and sits in Bankston’s seat. He points out a picture posted on the wall of the haircut he wants because he is uncomfortable speaking in English. Bankston nods and smiles at him reassuringly.

“Straight hair,” he said, “it’s different. You guys have, especially like blonder hair, you guys have, I think 140 strands of hair per square inch, whereas we (African Americans) have less. We’re working with like 70 strands of hair per square inch on the scalp. And then your hair’s straight, our hair is a coil because of the climate where we’re from. God designed us this way because in the hot you want the hair to draw up off the neck to cool you off. In the colder climates you want the hair to cover the neck to warm you up.”

Returning to Kent

In 2012, Bankston finished barber school and traveled to the Ohio State Barber Board in Columbus where he took the state exam and passed with a 92, making it legal for him to cut hair.

After completing his license, Bankston began working in a shop in Richmond Heights but was eager to return to Kent when he reunited with his old college girlfriend who still lived in the area. The two are now married with three daughters and son.

Kent feels like home to Bankston, who said he is happy to be back.

“When I first came to Kent, Bankston said, “what stood out to me the most was it reminded me of an army base. I’m an army brat. The campus kind of resembled an army base. The town was easy to navigate. It’s a small town and that’s what I was used to.”

Returning as an adult, Bankston said he is proud to live in a family-oriented community, and work in a shop like Leander’s, which is located on East Main St. in downtown Kent.

“We’re family oriented,” he said. “You can leave [the kids] for a cut and go shopping. Leander’s Barber Shop caters to everyone. When you’re here, you notice there’s a difference here.”

On a recent afternoon in the shop, Bankston gives Veshaun Glover from Streetsboro, Ohio a fresh cut. This is Glover’s first time at Leander’s Barber Shop, but he will be back. “They’re some cool guys,” he said.

On a recent afternoon in the shop, Bankston gives Veshaun Glover from Streetsboro, Ohio a fresh cut. This is Glover’s first time at Leander’s Barber Shop, but he will be back. “They’re some cool guys,” he said. (photo by Kristen Hamilton)

Bankston’s precise, yet relaxed demeanor fits in at Leander’s, which seems to echo his vibe of respect of self and the profession. The two other barbers in the shop, Isaiah Bush and Leander Walker, are both family men who nod along with Bankston’s description of the shop.

“This town is small so our status in the community is big,” Bankston said. “The owner (Leander) told me in the very beginning you really have to watch yourself and how you represent yourself because this town is small and everybody knows you. This isn’t a bad occupation to have and so people look up to you.”

With that in mind, Bankston and the other barbers at Leander’s strive to be a good example for the young men in the community. While Bankston may not have gotten the chance to work with at-risk youth and ex-offenders in the way he once imagined, he recognized that the barbershop still allows him the opportunity to help people.

“My chair now can be used as the same type of platform,” he said.

For Bankston, a lot of being a good barber is being able to build a solid rapport with his customers.

“Because I’m paying so close attention to his head, I can’t help but remember his face, his nose, his eyes,” Bankston said as he playfully swivels the chair around and looks deeply into the eyes of the customer he’s currently working on. “So, that’s what helps you get personal with people. But then after, that if you have a good enough conversation you’re gonna automatically remember them.”

And with clients who come in as frequently as once or twice a week, he is able to get to know his customers well and extol a lot of advice. When a young man steps into his seat, Bankston doesn’t just freshen up his look, he also “drops some knowledge on him.”

“If I get anybody in my chair now, I can be guiding them in a certain direction,” he said. “When you see them often you get to instill more guidance, reiterate certain things. They’ll say, ‘what was that you were telling me, where I can get that help?’”

Bankston hopes they need look no further than his chair.

“I’m right where I want to be still, I just went a different route, but it’s still working out,” Bankston said.

Bankston_Sidebar_Barber Shop Rules and Info (1)


Clients, cutters find home away from home at Jason’s Barber Shop in Kent’s Acorn Alley

To tour the shop and see some of the highlights of Jason’s collection of sports memorabilia, hover over the photo and click on the green circles.

by C.E. Sikkenga

In the 1980s, the television show Cheers created a template for a workplace comedy.  Set in a bar, it told of a neighborhood establishment where workers and customers forge lifelong relationships in a place where everybody knows your name.

Spend some time at Jason’s Barber Shop in Kent, Ohio and it isn’t tough to imagine a similar story unfolding amidst the clippers, straight razors and hot towels.  In shops like this, tall tales are swapped.  Laughs shared.  Advice dispensed.  In the process, bonds form that can last decades.

Jason Fabick, who owns the six chair shop on the Alley’s upper level along with Jason Manion, said although his business sells haircuts, the connection between cutters and cuttees is maybe more important than the trim.

“It’s about the people and the relationships,” Fabick said. “It’s like we were saying earlier today.  ‘You can BS the mess.’  A good haircut still means a lot, but people like to come in here and have fun.”


Part of the fun in Fabick’s shop comes from the decor, a collection of sports memorabilia extensive enough to rival any sports bar.  The jerseys, photos, bobbleheads and other paraphernalia cover nearly every inch of the shop’s walls and shelves–interrupted only by a handful of flat screen TVs tuned to sports programming.

Fabick calls the decision to go with the sports theme a “fluke.”

“My wife said ‘get your crap out of the basement’ and that was it,” Fabick said.  “So I brought it in here and the other Jason says ‘I guess we’re gonna have a sports barbershop.’  He brought his stuff in and from there people have been donating ever since.”

Jason Fabick, co-owner of Jason's Barbershop located in Downtown Kent's Acorn Alley puts some finishing touches on a trim.  Jason's is known for its friendly atmosphere and huge collection of sports memorabilia.

Jason Fabick, co-owner of Jason’s Barber Shop located in Downtown Kent’s Acorn Alley puts some finishing touches on a trim. Jason’s is known for its friendly atmosphere and huge collection of sports memorabilia. (photo by C.E. Sikkenga)

Donated items range from a pair of game worn shoes from former Cleveland Browns and Kent State gridiron great Josh Cribbs to signed footballs from college coaching legends Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno.

“It’s 30 years of establishing friendships with our customers and people just wanting to have a piece of themselves (in the shop)” said Fabick, pointing out a soapbox derby car donated by a customer’s daughter and a baseball bat and signed ball that another patron brought home from a major league game as child and eventually brought into the shop.  “It’s just people saying I thought I’d donate so I’d have something here.”


Six chairs down from Fabick, Johnny Moore, known to shop regulars as “Johnny the Barber,” also forges these sorts of bonds.  Describing himself as a people person with a gift of gab, he shoots opinions and barbs in the direction of his clients or, more frequently, his colleagues, often stepping from behind his chair to punctuate his point with a variety of facial expressions and enthusiastic arm movements.

That Moore has decorated his entire station with Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia is a clue to his personality.  The fact that he’s willing to display a veritable shrine to a hated rival in the heart of Browns country is an indicator of the way he enjoys stirring things up.  However, he also displays a knack for relating to customers of all backgrounds .

With older customers, Moore is enthusiastic as if talking to a long lost army buddy.   When explaining the shop’s new booking app to a mother, he’s patient and informative.  When her elementary age child is in his chair he softens his tone, making sure to bend to the youngster’s level.  With the young adult males, he’s louder and the conversation takes on the enthusiastic tones of a locker room or frat house.  No matter who is in the chair or the topic being discussed, the patter comes off as genuine, not generic.

Johnny Moore, known to Jason's patrons simply as

Johnny Moore, known to Jason’s patrons simply as “Johnny the Barber” finishes a cut on July 14. The lone Pittsburgh Steelers fan in shop of Browns loyalists, Moore is frequently the target of friendly barbs from colleagues and customers. (photo by C.E. Sikkenga)

Moore says building these relationships over time takes effort.

“When you’re talking with somebody, you have to be engaged to the point that you are getting to know them,” Moore said. “That’s how you build the relationship.  So when Leo comes in (he motions to a 20-something man in the waiting chair) I already know what we’re talking about.”

He then proceeds to rattle off enough details about Leo to fill a reasonably solid Wikipedia page.

“He just quit his banking job, he’s getting ready to go get his masters’ degree and that’s all happening over the next few weeks,” said Moore, noting Leo is one of his customers who has been coming in since he was a kid.  “He’s moving up to Cleveland.  He was in here three weeks ago and that’s where we’re we’re gonna pick our conversation up when he sits down.”

A few minutes later, Moore relates the story of a father and son who came for a cut before summer football practice started.  When he reveals the player achieved his goal of making the varsity team as a freshman, his speech slows down and his voice softens leaving little doubt that he was as proud as if he were discussing a family member.

Moore also relishes the fact that long-term customers return, even after they’ve moved out of town. This is particularly true in October, during Kent State’s homecoming when he sees customer’s that date back to the shop’s early days in house in a different part of the city.

“We get soooo many old school customers–back from the days in the house,” Moore said.  “They come in, now they’re married, they have  kids.  We get that all the time.”


This sort of personal touch makes the shop and its barbers a mecca for repeat customers who even become a part of one of the shop’s unique traditions–the yearly fantasy Tour De France competition.

Moore said the tradition grew out of one of the biggest issues the barbers faced in their original location in the house.

A large poster board along the main wall tracks the current standings in Le Tour de Jason's, the annual fantasy game between Jason's barbers and clients.

A large poster board along the main wall tracks the current standings in Le Tour de Jason’s, the annual fantasy game between Jason’s barbers and clients. (photo by C.E. Sikkenga)

To pass the time between cuts, he said the barbers started watching the Tour during Lance Armstrong’s run to multiple titles.  After Armstrong retired, the barbers found they’d become devotees and what began as friendly banter predicting who would win a post-Lance tour grew into a fantasy league that now includes customers and has a waiting list, entry fees and a host of inside jokes Moore suggests are not necessarily fit for a polite publication.  A trophy commemorating past winners enjoys an honored spot in a corner opposite the shop’s entry, further reinforcing the bond between barbers and customers.

These days, there’s not much down time for the barbers.  The scheduling app ensures most every 20 minute slot is filled for each of the shop’s barbers.

Still, the tour plays on the television with the league standings board on the floor below and although Moore admits he rarely has had enough free time to follow the tour this year, on a recent Tuesday the race was a frequent topic of banter throughout the shop.

In the end, for Fabick, it all comes back to the bonds between the barber and the client, one that isn’t found at chain franchises where barbers turn over frequently, rarely staying long enough that build the sort of relationships he values.

“It creates a stability when you have a relationship like this with these guys,” Fabick said. “They’re here and they’re always here. People get to know them.”

Hair artists create inviting atmosphere for clients

by Kelly Sparks

Jason’s Barber Shop

Within less than a mile of one another in historic downtown Kent three locally owned unique barbershops offer not only services that include cuts and hot shaves, but also a distinct personality to their clientele. The personality behind these local shops keeps customers returning.

Barbeshop_Photo 5_Jason's

Jason Fabick and Jason Manion are co-owner of Jason’s Barber Shop. (photo by Kelly Sparks)

Existing since 2003, Jason’s Barber Shop, owned by Jason Fabick and Jason Manion, reflects an athletic aura. Shop visitors see Josh Cribbs’ game worn shoes and a signed ball by Joe Paterno, America’s winningest coach in FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) history.

Fabic said after his wife told him to “get his crap out of the basement” he thought of no better place to take it than to the shop.

“I guess that’s when we decided we’re gonna have a sports barbershop,” he added.

After adding his own athletic collection to the shop, other barbers brought in personal items that reflected their sport favorites, including Johnny Moore’s, often referred to as Johnny the Barber, Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys, championship banners, and helmets. Regular clients also donated their own athletic memorabilia to add to the shop’s collection.

Barbershops_Photo 2_Jason's Mem

Jason’s Barber Shop is permeated with sports memorabilia from the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State Buckeyes, Pittsburgh Steeler, and other teams as well. Johnny Moore is the lone Steeler fan. (photo by Kelly Sparks)

“Just through years of establishing friendships with our customers and people wanting to have a piece of themselves [in the shop],” Fabick said as he points at a soapbox derby car that belongs to one of his friends’ daughters, “allows people to have something here.”

Slow summer business in the initial stages of the shop opening brought a time lag in customers so the barbers became interested in watching the Tour de France.

When long-time winning Tour de France Champion Lance Armstrong left the tour, the barbers began arguing one day during some down time about who was going to win so they decided to create a fantasy Tour de France team. They are now in their tenth year of competition. The winner receives a trophy located in the corner of their shop and the loser receives “we’re not going to talk about that,” Johnny the Barber said.

The entry fee involves $20 and a case of beer or a bottle of liquor with 12 current members and a waiting list of participants.

The nostalgic atmosphere keeps clients coming back to Jason’s Barber Shop and the convenience of scheduling an appointment on the shop’s new web booking service and free app download, which provide easy access to their services.

Click on image to view article.

Click on image to view article.

Local Mom Michelle Dockstader, who brings her sons to the shop because her husband has been a long time Kent resident, said that one of her favorite things about Jason’s is she can make an appointment with her son’s favorite barber online because she can see when he is available at a convenient time for her.

“I just dropped one son off at piano lessons and came over here to get my eight year old’s hair cut after making the appointment last night,” she said.

Customers vary in age and barber preference. Some regulars are or have been Kent State students and some just like the cut given. “When I came to school here I looked around for barbershops and heard about this one. I heard this was a really good one so I came here and haven’t been disappointed since,” Ben Even said.

The number of clients at Jason’s Barber Shop has increased to around  3,000 customers.

Around the corner from Jason’s Barber Shop Kent residents will find another local barbershop, one with its own style.

Leander’s Barber Shop

Barbershop_Photo 1_Leander's

Leander’s barber shop is owned by Leander Walker. (photo by Kelly Sparks)

Jazz music plays while walking into Leander’s Barber Shop on 124 E. Main Street. Customers are greeted by the shop’s owner Leander Walker, a tall, deep-voiced African American. “Hello and what’s your name?“ he asks, as the ASNE workshop participants approach him for an interview.

Barber Ed Bankston, employee of Leander’s since 2012, pointed out that the shop is located next to a book shop.

“We want people to come in here and read a book not stare at a TV, which is something you can do at home,” Bankston said.

Ed Bankston

Ed Bankston, Leander’s barber, explains the different types of clippers and add-ons used for various cuts on his clients. This add-on has a magnet for quick connection to the tool used for efficiency in his line of business. Behind Bankston hangs a poster he ordered after hearing a recitation of it entitled “One Barber”. (photo by Kelly Sparks)

No large screen TV is hanging on the wall as seen in Jason’s. However, a stack of children’s books and magazines line a nearby shelf. “We’re more about conversing in this place. It’s befitting because we are next to a university, an institution of higher learning so it’s slightly different here,” Bankston said.

Gregory Foster, a longtime friend of Leander, visits the shop today ‘just because’. Leander began cutting Foster’s hair when he was six years old. After moving away for several years and returning to Kent, Foster found out that Leander had his own shop and returned to having his hair cut by him. He has had his traditional short hair cut done by all of the barbers.

“They are all great barbers but normally I go to Leander, he’s like a brother to me,” Foster said.

Foster added that sometimes when he is low on money Leander even gives him a free haircut just to help him out.

Bankston said some things that set them apart from other barbershops are the half hour or more service they provide for their customers and preciseness of the cuts. They use an old fashioned straight razor to do line-ups instead of a modern hair clipper.

One quality that Bankston prides himself in is his meticulousness. He said being a barber is a perfect occupation to reveal this trait. “I got a little OCD from the military. In this industry this works beautifully. I want it to look like how I want. So for the barbershop it’s perfect.”

Some people are impatient when the cut takes longer than they want.

“They won’t even wait until I am done exchanging money with one customer and the guy tries to come over in this space and sit down. I’m like whoa, this ain’t McDonald’s like that,” Bankston said.

To keep clients from waiting for sometimes an hour or more Leander’s shop offers appointments only before 10 a.m., but otherwise it’s walk-ins only. “Then it’s first come first serve after 10. It’s so busy then you can’t do appointments because people just end up waiting for hours,” he said.

Headmaster’s Barber Shop

Barbershop_Photo 4_Headmaster-fix

Headmaster’s is owned by Bradley Jefferson. (photo by Kelly Sparks)

Down the block on 1444 Main Street is Headmaster’s Barber Shop with yet another aura welcoming clients.

In an area ranging from 150-200 ft two barber chairs, two wash sinks, a full size couch with an ottoman, a small filled refrigerator, and one 32-year old owner greet clients who want a haircut. “I like my customers to be comfy so I have a big couch in here. I don’t like folding chairs,” owner Bradley Jefferson said.

Jefferson hopes clients will get the feel of walking into a living room so they feel comfortable. He spends a half hour or more on his cuttees and lets them steer the conversation. “Conversation topics range from G-rated to all the way to the other end of the scale,” he said. This time allows him to get to know them on a personal level.

Jefferson is the single barber in this shop currently and wouldn’t mind having another barber, but wants to make sure it is someone who will work. “Because Kent State is only in summer session right now business has been slow,” he added.

These downtown local barbershops offer services for a variety of clientele. While most of the customers are males ranging from two to 84 some female customers venture in from time to time. The popular undercuts hairstyle and eyebrow arches are some of the most common services that women receive.

Kent offers a mixture of barbershops for its customers to stop in for a cut. However, one might receive more than just a cut. “Me and him we just see eye to eye. He just know my style,”Dakari Carter said of Isaiah Bush, Leander’s barber. Downtown Kent customers have a variety of shops to visit for a cut and more.




Folks flock to traditional poultry farming

by Stephanie Weiss

Regardless of where one stands on the age-old argument of which came first, chicken and egg consumption in the United States has evolved during the last century from small backyard extensions of family farms to large agribusinesses that together produced 8 billion eggs during May 2015 according to the American Egg Board.

In 1900, over five million farms produced about 90 percent of commercial eggs, according to Poultry Tribune. Flocks of 100 to 300 birds roamed freely around farms. Their diets consisted primarily of waste grain, weed seeds and insects.


Franklin the rooster watches for danger among his flock of hens outside of Breakneck Acres’ inventive chicken coop. The farmers chose to convert an old bus into a mobile coop for their 300 hens in Revenna, Ohio. (photo by Stephanie Weiss)

This concept of the backyard farm continued as late as the 1940s, when people started to move from rural to urban areas. Fewer farmers were available to meet the growing demand for eggs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s per capita figures for 2015 show egg consumption at its highest in 30 years, according to United Egg Producers’ website.

To keep up with this demand, the egg industry had to change its approach and industrialize and consolidate egg production. Today, 80 egg producing companies raise between one and five million egg-laying chickens to provide at least 85 percent of the total production of eggs, according to United Egg Producers’ June 2015 “Egg Industry Fact Sheet.”

However, today a population in America is looking to go back to what came first – traditional cage-free chickens or backyard chicken coops.

“There are approximately 7,000 households across the country that are maintaining backyard flocks and the numbers are continuing to increase,” Dr. Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary of USDA Research, Education, and Economics, said in an April broadcast on

Moving to the Country 


Lori Bischof raises 20 chickens in her backyard coop in Erie, Pennsylvania. She said it took her around $800 to invest in everything she needed. (photo by Lori Bischof)

One such farming newbie is Lori Bischof of Erie, Pennsylvania, who is a full-time English teacher, but decided to raise chickens this past spring after she and her husband Josh bought just under four acres of land in a suburb of Erie in 2014.

“I couldn’t have a garden at my house in the city because of light and space issues,” Bischof said, “and as much as I loved having neighbors the idea of having space and privacy really appealed to me as I turned 40.”

She joked that becoming what she considers a “hobby farmer” is her version of a mid-life crisis, but Bischof also saw raising her own vegetables, fruit, and chickens for eggs as a positive for her family of five. She believes it is important for her children to know where their food is coming from and caring for the chickens teaches them responsibility and respect.

“I got chickens to get eggs. I didn’t care much about the industry abuse,” Bischof said, “but now that I see my happy hens, I can’t imagine buying eggs from caged up animals. It seems barbaric.”

Bischof is referring to the use of battery cage systems set up on large poultry farms that have millions of egg-laying birds. These methods have come under criticism by animal advocacy groups. Bischof considers her chickens a hobby, but small farmers who are looking at their land as a business also see the benefits of returning to cage-free and free-range poultry farming methods.

Self-Sustaining Small Farm

Ami Gignac and Tim Fox own and operate Breakneck Acres in Revenna, Ohio, where they raise about 800 chickens who provide both meat and eggs to the local community.

Fox convinced Gignac to join him on the farming journey because he said he had a vision for his land and animals to be raised without chemicals. He could see the value of old-fashioned cultivation and sweat, the way he was raised by his farming family, and Gignac found that prospect so appealing that she left her corporate big business life to manage Breakneck Acres full time as a small business.

Small farmer Ami Gignac of Breakneck Acres collects eggs in the farm's inventive chicken coop. The farmers chose to convert two old buses into a mobile coop for its 300 hens in Revenna, Ohio. (photo by Stephanie Weiss)

Small farmer Ami Gignac of Breakneck Acres collects eggs in the farm’s inventive chicken coop. The farmers chose to convert two old buses into a mobile coop for their 300 hens in Revenna, Ohio. (photo by Stephanie Weiss)

Gignac explained that on large poultry operations the chickens are not free to forage for their food. “They are going to give them feed that is going to make it possible to sell their eggs for 99 cents,” Gignac said. “Our eggs cost $5 a dozen and we are [spend] around $4 to raise them and feed them. I don’t know what [other chickens] are eating, but I can tell you they aren’t eating as well as these birds.”

Breakneck Acres Invested in a stone mill in 2011 that is used to process grains for whole wheat flour and cornmeal to sell to the consumer. Gignac realized how much byproduct she was wasting through the process, so she became interested in creating chicken feed recipes made with ingredients grown on the farm. This makes the farm more self-sustaining, something that appeals greatly to the modern small farmer and makes good business sense.

The Secret is in the Feed

Using resources within the farm as well as leveraging other local business partnerships within a small farm’s community also helps them to succeed.

Lori Bischof originally posted this photograph on her Facebook page where she described herself as a chicken addict because she makes "lovingly prepared meals" for her 20 chicken flock. (photo by Lori Bischof)

Lori Bischof originally posted this photograph on her Facebook page where she described herself as a chicken addict because she makes “lovingly prepared meals” for her 20-chicken flock. (photo by Lori Bischof)

John and Meredith Poczontek own a trucking company, but operate Gray Fox Farm, a small farm in Hudson, Ohio, where they offer local customers vegetable produce, eggs, and turkeys throughout the year as way to supplement their income.

Gray Fox Farm usually has a flock of 55 egg-laying chickens that Meredith said they move around the 14-acre property throughout the year. Their chickens help create compost for the vegetables they grow by foraging through horse manure from a neighboring farm, which also supplements the flock’s diet.

“They dig through and eat out the fly larvae and [we] mix it with chicken scraps as well as coffee grounds from a local coffee shop,” Meredith said. “If you can let them have whatever they want they are eating food for their own nutritional needs which just gets passed on to us. They eat bugs, leaves, dig in the compost [which includes] shells and kitchen scraps.”

Consumers who prefer free-range and cage-free eggs over those raised in the battery cage setting say the flavor of the egg itself in noticeably different. Meredith confirmed that the color of her farm’s yolks are affected based on what the chickens eat.

Meredith Poczontek of Gray Fox Farm holds one of the chicks that will provide eggs for local consumers in Hudson, Ohio. (photo by Lina Mia)

Meredith Poczontek of Gray Fox Farm holds one of the chicks that will provide eggs for local consumers in Hudson, Ohio. (photo by Lina Mia)

“We were juicing beets and carrots one week and those were the most orange-red yolks we had ever seen because they were eating the scraps,” she said.

The Chicken Addiction

Bischof, Gignac, and Meredith all admit that there is a large learning curve when taking on a flock of chickens, but it hasn’t lessened their enthusiasm for the end result.

Meredith currently only has four chickens pecking around in the electrified poultry netting that surrounds her coop because a combination of predators destroyed her flock. Her rooster was attacking her hens, coyotes and raccoons gained access to the coop one night when the fence shorted out, and opossums stole their eggs. But she has a batch of fluffy chicks in her garage that are growing to replace the loss.

These three farmers face the challenges of their coops by focusing on the future and the ultimate goal of their endeavors. Meredith warns anyone interested in raising a few egg-layers in their backyard that chickens tend to be a “gateway animal” that might lead a farming entrepreneur to raising other animals.

A piglet on Breakneck Acres in ventures away from its mother to explore. This litter of pigs is the third one to be born on the farm in Revenna, Ohio. photo by Stephanie Weiss

A piglet on Breakneck Acres ventures away from its mother to explore. This litter of pigs is the third one to be born on the farm in Revenna, Ohio.
(photo by Stephanie Weiss)

Bischof admits that the thought of fresh meat chickens appeals to her, as does the idea of a goat roaming around her field.

Meredith has already extended her flock to include turkeys and her husband is “trying to convince her that the farm could use some pigs.”

Gignac said, “I didn’t realize that I had such a passion for animal husbandry,” but her love of animals is seen by the multiple litters of hogs and three calves that have all been born on the farm in the last two years.



The evolution of the home-town barbershop

By Joanne Wyant

From sharp stones to squeezable hand-operated razors, to different styles of electric razors, to the various services offered, the unfolding of the barbershop brought changes for today’s customers.

Small, home-town barbershops not only transitioned their equipment over time but also encountered several changes that transformed their business.

Displayed at Jason’s Barbershop, this hand-made pole symbolizes the traditional colors of the barbershop.  The grandfather of a customer made this pole in the 1980s and brought it into the store on July 15, 2015. (photo by Joanne Wyant)

Displayed at Jason’s Barbershop, this hand-made pole symbolizes the traditional colors of the barbershop. The grandfather of a customer made this pole in the 1980s and brought it into the store on July 15, 2015. (photo by Joanne Wyant)

Barber Ed Bankston, “UnCommon the Barbersurgeon,” said barbering began during the Egyptian Era when “the famous Egyptian barber, Meryma’at, started to shave the priests down before they would enter the temple. It was for sanctification purposes, and he was pretty wealthy for doing that.”

Bankston said he went to Kent State University and majored in history. When he decided to go to barber college, he focused on the history behind his new-found profession.  The background intrigued him.

Over time, he said, barbers became basic surgeons who competed with the medical doctors doing minor surgeries and acting as dentists by extracting teeth.

“In Europe, barbers were called the barber surgeons. Barbers were your physicians as well–they were the doctors,” Bankston said.

One of the earlier common practices barbers performed was called bloodletting, where one’s veins were cut open to let out any impurities or diseases that people often were thought to have.  The practice of bloodletting was messy, and barbers would use their towels to wrap the exposed areas and then hang them out to dry.

Bloody towels displayed outside the shops eventually became a symbol for the barbershops, and thus, the traditional red and white barber pole was born; although, some barbershops display a different type of pole–red, white and blue.

Bankston said the red white and blue of the pole signifies the blood, veins and bandages, and “when the medical field and the barber field split, we just took the pole. [The barber pole] really has nothing to do with cutting hair.”

Barber Bradley Jefferson said he learned in barber school that the blue coloring in the pole represents the veins in the human body. There are, however, others who link the addition of the blue color to patriotism and the American culture, according to

Barbers not only learn the history behind barbering while in school.  According to the Akron Barber College, barbers are now required to take a minimum of 1000 hours in order to get their license. Within the teachings of barber school, barbers learn many different trades, both old and new to the industry.

The curriculum offered at Akron Barber College teaches barbers about hygiene, sanitation and sterilization; rules and regulations; bartering history; ethics and shop management; honing, stropping and shaving; men’s haircutting; bacteriology; shampoo-tonic and scalp treatment; theory of massage; study of hair; chemistry; permanent waving; disease of the skin and scalp; barber laws; salesmanship; hair coloring and hair relaxing.

According to The Barber’s History, barbers during the early Paleolithic societies were more distinguished and held the highest authority among the social classes.

Today, Bankston said, many barbers believe their cohorts are no longer earning the respect that barbers once did.

Leander barber, Isaiah Bush prepares his customer for a traditional hot shave. The towel was saturated with hot water, wrung out and placed on his face where it was left for approximately one minute. (photo by Joanne Wyant)

Leander barber, Isaiah Bush prepares his customer for a traditional hot shave. The towel was saturated with hot water, wrung out and placed on his face where it was left for approximately one minute. (photo by Joanne Wyant)

“Nowadays, in some places, sometimes people forget that and a Barbershop turns into a [corner store hangout area].  People don’t see the prestige anymore, and some shops seem to be ghetto or street,” Bankston said.

Some local schools are still teaching prestige, though.  At Lake Erie Barber College in Cleveland, Bankston said his professor required them to dress up in a shirt and tie every Saturday to try and uphold the level of prestige the barber used to represent–he wanted his students to value their profession.

Barbering became a sophisticated profession in the U.S. occurred during the slave era.

“When the field split, this service began to be a job that slaves would perform because it was a service,” Bankston said.  “The black barber only could cut white men because white men didn’t want to sit in a shop with other people of color, so if you were a black barbershop owner, you only serviced white men.”

In Douglas Walter Bristol, Jr.’s book, Knights of the Razor: Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom, the diaries of slave owners discuss a master’s “waiting man”–or personal barber.

Bankston said the book told stories of how the slave would accompany the slave owner–his personal right hand man.

“In fact, he dressed the part–he was the nicest dressed guy.” Banskton said, “If he ran away, owners would request their return without harm: ‘Please don’t harm Willy. He’s my waiting man–I need him. Bring him back safely. He’s got this nice coat on. He’s got these trousers on that are expensive.’”

Julie Willett’s The American Beauty Industry Encyclopedia  describes how black barbers were viewed in society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries: “As ‘knights of the razor,’ a nickname that emphasized their link to the cosmopolitanism of European barber as well as their tonsorial skills, black barbers enjoyed a positive occupational identity.”

Click on the image to see infographic in full size.

Click on the image to see infographic in full size.

Bankston said he believes the success and image of the black barber helped create the black middle class because “that’s what gave you your city councilmen, mayors, lawyers, doctors. The black barber in the barbershop is called the oldest legal profession in America.”

Along with changes in peoples’ perception of the barber, new technology and laws both brought about significant changes to the industry.

In the early 20th century, barbers catered more to their clients by adding personal touches in their shops.

One of the differences between early barbering and now is the shaving mug.

Bankston said the “barber used to have a chest full of mugs. Those mugs were his clients’ mugs.  When they came in, they had their own personal mug that the barber would pull out of his cabinet. We can’t do that anymore because of sanitation concerns.”

In some shops, there is a decline in even this type of service.  Barber Jason Fabick says his shop no longer provides hot shaving as a service unless there is a special occasion such as a wedding because they are too busy to provide something that takes so much time.

He said he feels their customers did not want to sit around waiting for a cut or shave.

In fact, one thing Fabick’s shop implemented in October of 2014 was the use of the barber app, StyleFeed, where customers can book their appointments ahead of time on their phones or a computer.

New sanitation laws also changed some things around the shop.

Jefferson said the straight razor has changed things significantly–they are now disposable to prevent people from contracting diseases.

Ed Bankston uses this single, plastic mug and its contents to give his customers a traditional hot shave.  In the early 20th century, each customer had his own mug placed in a cabinet belonging to the barber. (photo by Joanne Wyant)

Ed Bankston uses this single, plastic mug and its contents to give his customers a traditional hot shave. In the early 20th century, each customer had his own mug placed in a cabinet belonging to the barber. (photo by Joanne Wyant)

“I clean my tools with sprays and I have to saturate sponges with disinfectants,” Jefferson said.

Joe Girard, an elderly man who sat in Jefferson’s shop while waiting for his friend to have his hair cut, said when he was younger, he contracted a skin disease known as impetigo from a barber.

“Years ago, when I was a kid,” Girard laughed at the memory, “haircuts were 35 cents.  I found a guy that did mine for 25 cents when I was about 10 or 12 years old, and my mom said I got impetigo from going to the cheap place.  It probably cost my dad five bucks to go to the doctor.”

Barber tools have to be sanitized in accordance with state laws, and the sinks are required to be within four feet of the center of the barber chair.  Jefferson said he had to add a sink to his shop to comply with state guidelines.

The barber industry has taken many forms over the centuries and the traditional shops from the early and mid 20th century have a great amount of historic impact.

Girard’s brother, Greg, who was also in the shop, said, “I can’t imagine what America would be like without the hometown barbershop, especially in a small town.”




Small Farmers Question Role in Organic Food Chain

by Lina Mai

Meredith Poczontek uses organic methods on Gray Fox Farm, which she founded six years ago. She said she does not have the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic certification because of the program’s burdensome requirements.

Meredith Poczontek uses organic methods on Gray Fox Farm, which she founded six years ago. She said her farm does not have the US Department of Agriculture’s organic certification because of the program’s burdensome requirements. (photo by Lina Mai)

When Meredith Poczontek spotted squash beetles on the tomato plants on her 14-acre farm in Hudson, Ohio, she used Monterey Garden Insect Spray, an approved organic insecticide. Poczontek, who founded Gray Fox Farm six years ago, spreads manure instead of chemical fertilizer and pulls weeds by hand as an alternative to using herbicide.

While Poczontek uses these organic methods, she said Gray Fox Farm is not certified organic because of the exorbitant cost and onerous application process.

“It’s not worth the time or money to us,” said Poczontek, “since we direct sell everything we grow [and] raise.” She believes her farm can stay viable without the organic label as long as she assures customers by explaining, “We follow organic practices. We just don’t pay for the certification.”

Like Poczontek, many small farmers are feeling the pressure to farm organically in order to satisfy consumers’ hunger for food with fewer chemical by-products.

“Organic farming is the one big growth niche in the market,” said Maria Gaura, spokesperson for the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Although sales of organic food has increased by at least 20 percent annually over the past decade, the demand for organic options outweighs the supply, according to Gaura. Only 1 percent of American farms are certified organic by the US Department of Agriculture. However, a 2014 Gallup Poll found that nearly half of Americans, 45 percent, actively try to include organic foods in their diets.

Gaura attributes this shortage of organic food to the challenges surrounding the certification process.

“There’s a learning curve. Yields might drop and you’re trying something completely different,” she said. “If you’re not super financially secure when you start, it’s daunting.”

To become certified, farms must meet rigorous standards set by the USDA. These requirements include using approved soil and pest management systems, buffering between neighboring conventional farms to avoid contamination, and keeping detailed records of farming practices. Depending on the size of a farm, annual inspections for small farms can cost between $600 to $1200, while larger farms could pay up to $38,500, according to the California Certified Organic Farmers, a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency.

Gaura said the Organic Farming Research Foundation hopes to increase the number of organic farms by lobbying the federal government to increase funding and support for farmers who are transitioning to certified organic production.

Breakneck AcresFor Ami Gignac and Tim Fox of Breakneck Acres in Ravenna, Ohio, the organic certification process was too cumbersome and expensive.

The 33-acre farm was certified organic from 2008 to 2013 when it produced w­­heat, corn, soybeans, seasonal produce and stone-milled specialty grains.

Gignac said the organic certification gave her farm credibility and allowed her to charge a premium. Eventually, she became overwhelmed with the requirements, and she wanted to focus her efforts on farming instead of paperwork.

“I realized that maybe we didn’t need the certified organic label,” said Gignac. “We needed people to be able to see what we do.”

When Gignac decided to add chickens and pigs to her farm, she was reluctant to submit another organic application and pay the additional cost to the USDA. She also didn’t want to drive two hours to the nearest organic meat processor.

As a small farm, Gignac believed she could continue to build strong relationships with her customers, despite their appetite for certified organic food. While she dropped the USDA’s organic seal of approval, she maintains organic practices.

According to Jeff Gillman, professor in the Horticulture Technology Department at Central Piedmont Community College, many Americans’ desire for organic food stems from a misunderstanding of the USDA’s requirements for organic certification.

Gillman said that organic pesticides are not necessarily less toxic than synethic alternatives, and he urges consumers to educate themselves about their food choices by speaking directly with farmers.

“I go to the farmers market and talk to the growers to see who is serious about reducing pesticide use,” Gillman said in a National Public Radio broadcast.

Gignac, whose income has surged 65 percent so far this year, credits her farm’s continued success to her ability to assure customers that she uses minimal pesticides and treats her livestock humanely.

“I didn’t need a label to get customers,” she explained. “What I needed was to get to know the customers and let the customers get to know me, and that was enough, certified or not certified.”