Hello from West Virginia’s first Grow Appalachia site, where things are growing right along!  We are based at High Rocks, a girls leadership program in Pocahontas County.  After a cold and rainy spring,  we finally got some dry sunny days around the beginning of June, and our Grow Appalachia team has been rushing all over the place with the tiller. All of the gardens are finally planted and flourishing!
                We are working with 20 participants including 14 families, 3 market growers who plan to sell their produce on a larger scale, and 4 community organizations.  Of the 14 families we are working with, about half of them are first time gardeners who are all very excited to be growing their own food; while the other half have grown gardens in the past, but are excited to get some support in learning more about growing organically, season extension, integrated pest management, and growing to sell.
Grow Appalachia AmeriCorps Member, Adrienne Jeurgens, works with elementary students at High Rocks’ Educational Gardens.
The 3 market growers we are working with continue to amaze us with the wonderful variety and quality of food they are growing.  One is growing for the National Radio Observatory Cafeteria in the County, the second is starting a Community Supported Agriculture Program that aims to supply at least 100 people a month with food, and the third is beginning a small farm to sell to local restaurants and farmer’s markets.
Market Grower, Joe Heathcock, works in his greenhouse earlier this spring.  Joe is working to develop a Community Supported Agriculture program, with support from Grow Appalachia.
The first of our 4 organizations is a Domestic Violence Shelter which has paired up with a private school for troubled girls as well as several master gardeners, to run a garden at the Shelter for clients and their children to learn and eat from.  The second is a Community Center which provides free meals five days a week.  We have helped them put in several terraced hillside beds which their senior citizens can help take care of, and which hopefully will supplement the food used for the free meals.  The third organization we are working with is a historic birthplace museum, which has planted a historic garden beside the old home place museum, and has organized a community network of volunteers to help maintain the garden.  The food grown there is donated to a local food pantry.  And last, but not least, is High Rocks, our host organization which is a leadership program for West Virginia Girls.  We have planted a garden in the middle of the campground, and the teenage girls attending summer camp right now are helping maintain the garden, as well as eating from it each day!  Earlier in the spring students from local elementary and middle schools participated in after school gardening programs at High Rocks’ gardens.
We have hosted two workshops so far, the first was on  Soil Health and Biodiversity, and was well attended.  The second was a panel discussion about Growing to Sell, which included two established local producers who sell to local restaurants and markets, a local restaurant owner who buys as much as she can locally and would like to buy  more, and a representative from the USDA’s meat and poultry division.  The panel discussion was well attended, very dynamic, and useful to those who attended.  We are gearing up for our third workshop next month which will be an in-garden discussion of pest management strategies.
Now that the gardens are in, we’re excited about getting back out to visit with families and organizations to see how they’re growing!  We are also really excited about all of our upcoming workshops.  It is finally summer time up here in the mountains of West Virginia, and Appalachia sure is growing!
Rachel Garringer
Grow Appalachia Coordinator
High Rocks Educational Corporation
Hillsboro, West Virginia