The lesson of the day: Plant potatoes with the eye facing up.
I learned this from a 65 year old man called Mr. Bill Moore at the Hart Baptist Church garden. It was 12 noon when we started working on that garden, the sun was hot and right above our heads. Mr. Riley, the director of the Laurel County African American Heritage Center (LCAAHC) ploughed the land with the tractor and Mr. Moore and I followed through with potato eyes. As we went along the rows, the men started talking about farming and gardening when they were younger. Mr. Riley made a comment that caught my attention; he said that gardening today is fun, but when he was growing up, it was not an option, if you didn’t grow it, you didn’t eat it. Today we have grown up in a generation where we have the option to decide whether or not we want to keep a garden, when he was growing up, it was a necessity.
|Jennifer Mante planting the eyes of the potatoes|
Mr. Moore seemed glad that I was willing to learn these practices, he wishes he could drag his nephews to join him. The garden that they were starting was aimed at feeding the unfortunate people in the church who could not afford fresh food. Two other older gentlemen came to join us and we ploughed 20 rows, 3 feet apart and planted 6 rows of potatoes. It was an interesting experience under the hot sun. We do not grow potatoes in Ghana, so this was my first time and what I appreciated most, was being in the midst of the older generation, listening to them share stories about what their grandparents used to do to raise their gardens.
|Ms. Selina’s garden being ploughed|
Later that afternoon, we went to the back woods of East Berndstat to visit Ms. Selina’s garden. She had not started hers yet, so we went to till the soil. It was still green and covered with weeds. It was also a big plot of land and took an hour to completely have the soil turned and most of the weeds uprooted. The garden was meant for her family- her mother, sister and daughters. Her daughters, Courtney and Constance are sweet little girls who love playing and immediately got me into watching them display their tricks on the trampoline and swings. Once again, the essence of family, in surviving in Central Appalachia was brought to my attention.
We arrived at Ms. Angelica’s house at 6pm to help her start her garden. She has 8 mouths to feed and she was just so excited to have her own garden. All of us started out by first cutting the eyes of the potatoes to be planted.
|In Angelica’s garden. From left to right: Angelica, Mr. Riley, Angelica’s son.|
After that we started planting- potatoes, tomatoes, onions and corn. Everyone helped and it was a fun and smooth process. Mr. Riley was very pleased with it as well; he taught Ms. Angelica’s son how to plant the tomato plants in a strategic manner to enable the plant develop strong roots. I admired this transfer of knowledge because I know that many youth are learning how to move extra fast with new technology but old, simple and efficient ways of making life easier, like learning to grow a garden are being left behind.