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ArcheWild, Wonderful West Virginia: cultivating our employees through explorative education.

Josh and Tomias identifying wildflowers.

ArcheWild, Wonderful West Virginia: cultivating our employees through explorative education.

A reflection upon the importance of nurturing comprehension development within workspace community.

As a small company, Archewild is a tightly knit community in which we not only care deeply about our work but also participate in ongoing, cohesive efforts to further knowledge and abilities that support ourselves and each other as a whole. Through this approach of creating an environment that nourishes itself, we as employees gain a higher capability of understanding our field of work and develop increased potency of that in which we can offer back.

Archewild team from left to right: Kristen Bartels, Blake Slusaw, Mark Brownlee, Koby Kilgore, Tomias Peoples, Josh Schwartz

“This company is not mine,” says Archewild founder Mark Brownlee while enjoying the company of his employees amidst cool summer air and a smoky campfire.

“It belongs to all of you. For you to utilize; as growth.”

It began with the manifestation of an idea: an Archewild employee field trip to the mountains of West Virginia. What developed was an immense experience of exploration and education. 

The early morning air was thick as we arrived with our backpacks full and our minds even more with anticipation of what the next three days might serve us.  The first day was mostly spent gathered in the pick up driving across the map, traversing the landscape. Every moment was utilized, as we spent the long hours in the car as an opportunity to discuss concepts and expand thoughts. As a preface to what we would soon encounter, we were asked to ponder what it is a plant needs to survive in a certain place. We then explored the breaking down of ideas that contribute into this, furthering our thinking into water sources and soil relationships, finally delving into the key point of this trip which would be understanding ecoregions.

Mark Brownlee teaching his employees how to identify wildflowers.

It was a tangible shift, as we were welcomed into the state of West Virginia. Navigating unpaved backcountry roads, we arrived at our first educational opportunity: a shale barren eco region. With Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide as our trusty tool, we familiarized ourselves with the process of identifying wildflowers. First looking at the flower’s petals, then leaves to narrow down the potential plants that in question could potentially be. We explored the notion of each species habitating in this ecoregion as unique, due to the concept that plants grow in certain areas not because of where they prefer to live but rather as the restrictions that prevent a species from living in a certain space. Closely taking into account the variability of species diversification in relation to the slope of the barrens, it became apparent that there was much to learn from what is right before our eyes yet seldomly given thought to.

The crew around the campsite.

A thunderstorm gently guided us to our campsite for the night: Seneca Rocks. As if an offering from the land, we arrived just as the rain gave way to an ambient forthcoming dusk.  Wobbly car ride legs beneath us, the six of us piled our belongings on our backs and took on the task of setting up camp. With the crag as our backdrop, the Archewild team became something much greater than we had set out as.

Seneca Rocks.

We discussed and reflected upon the journey so far, taking in the experience and realizing the magnitude of knowledge we became capable of soaking in through this sort of educational format. All of the employees on the trip having been recent college students found education to be a familiar concept, however when delivered in this sort of experience it became much more powerful. We not only were building a stronger company through developing a team that can endure together but also were each learning independent concepts that we sought out, being offered guidance rather than constraint. The work we do at Archewild is incredibly unique, therefore it is important as a company to foster this uniqueness through employee enrichment. Done not by placing cookie cutter information upon us, but by placing us in an environment that allows us to build upon ourselves and each other.  A training session that stands for everything the company holds closely; presenting core concepts that help to coach the art of our trade while also promoting the creative nature of what makes us a company so desirable. Such a system prompts us to be strong thinkers and doers adept to handle anything we may encounter during our work.

Spruce Knob forest trail.

Rain against tent greeted us Friday morning as we assembled for the day’s adventure. Our destination would be a short drive from our campsite: Spruce Knob. Again, the weather seemed to smile at us as the sky cleared. We began at the bottom of the mountain. As we explored the forest, we continued to hone in on our identification skills, in awe of the majestic environment we were immersed in. As the process of identifying plants became more comfortable to us we were able to even more so observe the patterns of how and why plants grow in certain places. An exercise to help demonstrate this was the noting of how many different species we could find growing within a given area. It was found that seven was the average number which we then learned was a product of the fact that an ecoregion is generally made up of 6-12 species. We made several

Blake and Mark working together to identify wildflowers.

stops as we scaled the mountain, noticing and learning about the changes in ecoregion and plant diversity as the altitude increased. Being able to really engulf ourselves in what we were learning about with all of our senses, gave an element of deeper understanding that we could carry with us. Being in a group setting also added layered comprehension by promoting active discussion and idea engagement.

“Not many are fortunate enough to participate in a job that requires so much hands on attention while also providing a perpetual learning experience.” -Koby Kilgore

Top of the knob view.

 

Our second day ended at Cranberry Glades, a national natural landmark bog area. Before setting up camp, we explored. This land was entirely unique to the previous settings we had investigated and again demonstrated the notion of plant habitat and condition restriction. Following the boardwalk safely allowed us to walk through the bog without disturbing plant life, we took in the lush environment and unique plant life around us, including carnivorous plants and other species descending from thousands of years ago. The sky seemed to be made of magic as the sun set, and the night ended with a warm campfire to mimic it.

Cranberry Glades Sunset.

We woke up early on our final day which would mostly be spent on our departure drive home, but first we had to experience true West Virginia breakfast. A small diner housed us. The final tier of our trip, the last stop before we would return back to trade in our sleeping bags for beds and our pack would return to a weekday schedule. The five of us, young and eager. Our leader, wise and willing. Together, as we sat around that table eating West Virginia buckwheat pancakes, we were something truly beautiful. We hadn’t showered in days and were weathered quite unsightly, but we radiated harmony found through this collective endeavor of transcending our passions into a realm of strengthened abilities and attained wisdom. We sat there, not as individuals, but as a whole. We came as a company, and we left as a company. But along the way, we grew. That is what makes Archewild among the rarest of companies: we know how to grow, in everything we do.

 

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