Program Updates

July 22, 2010

John Paul and Tommy,

Welcome from the hills of Kentucky. I am waiting for the latest report from Laurel County to send a more detailed report with participation numbers and some financials (Wayne is pretty much a one-man shop and his paperwork is usually a little behind) . But in the meantime I wanted to share some of the heart-warming comments I am receiving from the folks in the field making Grow Appalachia a real presence in all those Eastern Kentucky counties. These are short excerpts from end of fiscal year reports and intern journals and I think they give you a good feel for what impact Grow Appalachia is having. We speak often about the future of this program and I have carved out a block of time in August to visit all sites again as well as to meet with some potential new partner sites for next year. Have there been discussions about the level of support for next year’s Grow Appalachia? As soon as I know that I can begin planning and recruiting in earnest, building on this year’s lessons and working on next year’s hopes. This is truly one of the most rewarding programs I have worked in. When I think about being able to hone and refine Grow Appalachia to help even more families it energizes me as it does so many of the people currently a part of the program.  We are putting nutritious, fresh food on the plates of hundreds of people and we can do this for so many more. I look forward to hearing from you all. And again, thank you.

“Here are three excerpts from Rachael Mason’s internship journal. Rachael is the Grow Appalachia intern at the Red Bird Mission and a Berea College student. Rachael’s family lives in the area served by Grow Appalachia.

  • June 28, 2010 Entry:

After checking my email for updates, I sketched out the gardens we had visited last week. Along with this came updating the notebook, contact list, uploading photos, and putting photos in the correct files. I also went out and took more pictures of the local gardens because of how much they had changed since the last photo shoot. There were cucumbers galore at the seniors, pumpkins the size of small balloons at the school, and tons of weeds and yellow squash at the community garden. The pictures don’t really do it justice. When I finished uploading these pictures, I evaluated the participants based on how much they used our program. I feel like most of them needed us in some form or fashion. Some wouldn’t have had a garden without us. I did some research on recipes to repel deer, and made a flier for it. I believe Audrey (one of the Grow Appalachia gardeners) needed this information. Speaking of Audrey, she called while I was outside wanting to know if we could get copper spray for her ASAP. David told her about it and she has been asking about it ever since. I am glad she is enthusiastic. Not all gardeners treat their plants like children but the ones that do are admirable.

  • June 30, 2010 Entry:

When we arrived at Red Bird I did the usual organizing information from the site visit. I didn’t even realize how poor some of our participants were. I was completely taken aback when we went to (one of the gardener’s) house. My family has been in that shape before but it was a face I hadn’t seen in years. Poverty in Appalachia is real and I hope that we can help change that in the long run.

  • July 9, 2010 Entry:

Today is the day that the teens come to Wanda and Esther’s to help in their gardens. I did not drive to Red Bird today since they were coming to my house so I met them in Pineville and drove them up. I took the teens to Esther’s garden and they pulled weeds out from around the onions and potatoes. They also tied up tomato plants and harvested beans. They were a tremendous help and they even enjoyed the trip. The driver, Sara, was an elderly lady and she absolutely loved Esther. She could not get over how hospitable my mother was and she enjoyed working in the garden as well. The way I feel about gardening, is that you can’t not have a good time. By pulling weeds you are helping a plant grow, you can see the progress, and you feel like you have done something good. Sara definitely felt good after she finished because she learned about different weeds and she could then see the potato plants. I cannot wait to take the teens to Denver’s house to help (I foresee success). After they left, I went back to the garden to finish.

Nancy Seaberg, program director, Red Bird Mission (RBM)
We currently have 19 individual households who are active in the garden project with a total of 65 household members, varying in age from under 1 year to 90 years of age.
The Senior Apartment and RBM Residents gardens on-site at RBM support 19 people, and the home for troubled young men, Chad’s Hope, in Manchester supports an additional 25 people with their garden.  These numbers just touch the surface of those actually fed from these gardens as nearly all share extra produce with other family members and friends.

A re-cap:
Senior garden – 6 of 8 households are participating in garden.
School garden – Girl Scouts and 6th Grade class each have a garden.  6th graders chose to have a butterfly garden.  Girl Scouts chose a Three Sisters, Native American, garden (corn, beans and pumpkins, with sunflowers added).
Community garden – 4 families have individual plots, with about half of garden space reserved as ‘community’.  Residents, intern, teen leaders and summer youth are working the community garden.  Produce from community garden will be sold at Farm Market and monies used to support those in need &/or produce will be given to those in need.

I am impressed with how well the garden project has been received and how well our participants are carrying through with their gardening.  Several participants have done volunteer work with us here at RBM and we are working to find ways for others to give of themselves without it being a burden.  Most of our participants are seriously economically disadvantaged and simply traveling to and from RBM can be a hardship.  Several participants are assisting each other with their gardens and we will consider that as their volunteer commitment.

Linda Lemons, Project Manager
Grow Appalachia update, July 2010
Henderson Settlement
Tomorrow, our farmers’ market opens for the 2nd year.  We are so excited!  Last year we started small, but with the Grow Appalachia gardeners, we are expecting a lot more participation.  We have worked all week on getting ready and have had a lot of calls and visits to the farm to ask about it.

I was speaking to our intern, Jean, about our expectations for this project today before I began writing this.  Our response to each other was that we didn’t know what to expect!  This could have been a disaster but the gardens are planted, doing well, being harvested and now we are planning the fall crops and crop cover for winter.  We are making compost bins for anyone interested.  We are inquiring about the Heifer Project to run along side in order to provide chickens and goats for eggs and milk. We would like to add fruits next year.  The addition of part-time help and Jean (the Berea College student intern) has made this run so smoothly.  Well, until yesterday when we picked up a nail in the Grillo tire!  We’ve fixed it and are ready to till again on Monday.

We decided at the onset that we would take on 30 gardens.  We have 32 and 3 community gardens.  The Senior Center garden harvested 16 cucumbers this week!   Jean is making visits to everyone on the program and getting great responses from them.  Some need very little physical help and we have others that need quite a bit.  Since I was raised on a farm, it didn’t occur to me that one of our new farmers would have no idea how to use a hoe!  We have brought her quickly up to speed on that and her garden is doing well.  In an earlier story I mentioned her because she is teased about her bad cooking (think Twinkies).  I think this will be something she does again next year!

There are things I think I would do differently if I get the chance next year.  I will be losing 2 of my part-timers at the end of this month and there is still so much to be done.  I think I would arrange my budget differently.  I really need them to start earlier in the season and end later.  I am really interested in organic fertilizers and pesticides and I feel like we can do more with that.  We used a lot of heritage/heirloom seeds and we will be doing seed saving too.  I like the idea of non hybrid seeds.

This has provided so much for this valley!  Our gardeners are always thankful and are interested in learning new things.  It has provided employment for people who really need it (unemployment is at 42% in this area).  It is bringing the community closer together as we do classes together and talk about our failures and successes.  Most importantly, we are growing and eating fresh, home-grown food!

Randal Pfleger, Henderson Settlement
Grow Appalachia Supervisor, Sustainability Director 
Planting & Harvest: Even though weather continues to present challenges throughout our service area, all of the gardens are planted and harvesting has begun. Late winter was exceptionally cold and snowy, spring was abnormally rainy and wet, and the last few weeks have been notably hot and dry. After months of hard work, the harvest has begun! Grow Appalachia participants have harvested peas, lettuce, radishes, onions, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, beans, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, chard, and peppers. The larger harvests of corn, beans, potatoes, and tomatoes will begin later this month and continue until frost.

Reciprocity: Most of the local community members are notably generous and maintain a tradition of sharing. Project participants have offered much in return for support and assistance provided by Grow Appalachia. Examples of reciprocity include:

  • Sharing of numerous meals, snacks, and drinks.
  • Sharing of numerous seeds (corn, lettuce, bean, pepper).
  • Sharing of garden produce. Ramps, rhubarb, kraut, beans, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and peppers have been shared and sold at the Farmers’ Market.
  • Sharing of skills and knowledge, including woodworking, quilting, rugbraiding, beekeeping, and keeping chickens, in addition to gardening and food preservation.

Youth: When one of our project participants stated, “You are going to have to grow you some gardeners,” we took that statement to heart. Numerous times throughout this project we have seen a young person have their eyes wide open in amazement and excitement. We believe that working with youth, probably younger than ten years old, will be bear the most fruit in the coming years. Young people at Green Hills Elementary School and at numerous gardens in the community are happy to have the opportunity to learn, experiment in the soil, and be outside.
Families: On a few occasions, we have worked in gardens with three generations of family members. We have been in the gardens with newborn children, babies in diapers, parents, and grandparents together growing food, sharing stories, and passing on traditions. Gardens are truly one of the places where family comes together and memories are made.
Relationships: The Grow Appalachia project has allowed PMSS staff to develop deep relationships with more than 20 families in the local community. This type of intentional, sustained, local outreach represents a significant change in how PMSS works with the local community and will lead to many positive results in the future.

Physical help: Many of the participants in the project request significant hands-on support in their gardens. We recognize that gardening requires physical labor and we also have some concern about the level of physical labor we are doing in some gardens. Sometimes no work happens in the gardens at all between our visits (on 10-14 day intervals). On the other hand, we celebrate that most participants work right alongside us and that gardens are maintained at a level that they might not otherwise be (and presumably there will be increased harvests). “

David Cooke
Entrepreneurship for the Public Good, program coordinator
Berea College Appalachian Fund, director
859 985 3941, Fax 859 985 3903
CPO 2055, Berea KY 40404