June 2, 2010
John Paul and Tommy,
I hope you and yours are well. You will be pleased to hear that Grow Appalachia is moving right along. The project has met or exceeded the projected numbers of participating families at all sites and the soilworking and planting are really ahead of where I thought we would be at this point. It was a tough spring and early summer for gardening, with early hot days alternating with late killing frosts with one incredibly rainy spell. But everyone persevered and the gardens are looking very trim and productive already. I have been doing this community development work in the hills of Appalachia for a long time but I have never seen a program take off this well and be so accepted , especially considering that we did not have much time to plan and build partnerships before spring came along. Gardening has a special place in the hearts of hill people and it is really gratifying to be able to provide the assistance people need to have that independence again. Many people are eating salad greens, green onions, broccoli and other spring crops they got in the ground early and have already planted the summer, hot weather vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and beans) Many truly heartwarming comments are heard at every site. Folks take what they need without being greedy and share with others so that as many people as possible can be helped. Heart-healthy cooking and food preservation classes are already being scheduled as well as advanced gardening classes on succession planting during the growing season and extending the garden season well into fall. The professional grade tillers John Paul’s money paid for have been well used as much of this soil, even though fertile, is hard and rocky and needs good equipment to prepare it for use.
We are being as strategic as possible to provide what each family needs without trying to put people in cubbyholes. Some folks need everything: tilling, seeds and plants, tools, fertilizer and labor to help get things going. Not to mention ongoing help and encouragement. Some folks just ask for a few plants and some seed to get going and many of these families are talking openly of sharing with others. The older members of GA are actually helping teach some of the classes and mentoring younger, less experienced members. The partnerships with the Cooperative Extension Offices have worked really well. It is interesting to see the other collaborations which have developed. Even though I have not sought local publicity for the program, instead focusing on the success of the four partners we have in place, many people in the area know of Grow Appalachia and have contacted one of the partners or me and either asked for help or offered some or have suggested ways to work together. The project manager at Red Bird Mission is working with the local Community Action Council and a private group home , Chad’s Hope, for youth who have had substance abuse problems. With the help of GA they are planting a large garden where all of the young men in residence will work some each week. All of the partners have used GA resources to leverage other resources from the partners named in the proposal as well as new ones which has allowed a wider reach and more participation than we had planned.
I have attached a few pictures and will send more. Good pictures which really show off the project are starting to come in and I will make sure you and the PR folks have access to them. One really gratifying development has been the garden at the Red Bird Elderly Housing facility. With eight tidy apartments in a well kept facility this housing complex provides safe homes for eight elderly residents. They requested help with tilling ,plants and seeds and have carved a beautiful little garden on a gentle slope at the base of the hill behind their apartments. Six of the eight residents are taking part in this and have really taken ownership of a project they wanted in place for years and could never afford. Local boys and girls in the summer youth program will help with the more demanding physical labor through the summer( mixing three generations together, many of whom never gardened before or couldn’t for many years) while providing some much appreciated fresh produce for the dinner tables.
The serious gardening season is just now underway and Grow Appalachia is already well established and moving on. I am very interested in your feedback and will continue these updates more often as we are now very active in the program. Many thanks for all you have done.
Entrepreneurship for the Public Good, program coordinator
Berea College Appalachian Fund, director
859 985 3941, Fax 859 985 3903
CPO 2055, Berea KY 40404