Love your Bioregion

Reader Contribution by Stan Slaughter
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This post describes a group that loves a special part of the Heartland, the Missouri-Arkansas Ozarks. OACC meets annually to renew and inspire its participants to live sustainably.

In late September and early October I had two trips to my beloved Ozarks. The first was to teach a composting class to several high schools which was a treat, but the second (the big one) was for the 33rd annual OACC (pronounced oak). The acronym stands for Ozark Area Community Congress. What the gathering really is will take some explaining.

Three of the founders of OACC, from left, David Haenke, Stan Slaughter and Denise Vaughn. Haenke manages the Alford Forest, a private forest preserve and speaks eloquently about the Ozarks and bioregionalism. Slaughter (this blog’s author) is known as the Eco-troubadour and has been educating children through assemblies and concerts across the nation for over 20 years. Denise Vaughn is an award-winning environmental reporter and an expert on Karst topography.

OACC could, by this time, be called a family reunion for a bunch of back-to-the-landers, but it’s much more than that. OACC is the oldest annually-meeting bioregional gathering on the continent, founded in 1979. It could be considered a broad-based environmental conference, except for the word Congress. The gathering considers itself to be the mind and spirit of the Ozarks itself, with each attendee being a representative of his/her area. Those who come constitute the “Congress of the Ozark Bioregion” with the responsibility to devise and implement the best in ideas and actions for the region. There are no members in OACC, only representatives. Watersheds are the building blocks and focal points of our region. The ecology and long-term health of the Ozarks Bioregion are fundamental.  We think patiently, like our mountains, realizing that we are starting a project that may take 500 years.

Tegan Vaughn represents a healthy contingent of second generation OACCer’s. Here she displays the OACC flag.

OACC brings together people from many walks of life who share a passion for sustainability in all of its forms. Midwives, beekeepers, forest managers, water activists, homesteaders and much more come together to learn and share. There are scheduled workshops and impromptu caucuses, a talent show and fabulous vegetarian food.

OACC cooks its own food. Here is a mother-daughter volunteer team in the common kitchen.

Mostly we renew and inspire each other with our ingenuity, hard work and vision for a land we love. It is this fabulous recharge of spirit that has brought me back for 32 of the 33 years, though I now live at the edge of the prairies a long way from the Ozarks. For more information visit the  OACC Facebook page.

To read more from Eco-Troubadour Stan Slaughter, go to