By: Traviss Witt 
A Grow Appalachia Summer Intern 
Prior to my experience with the Grow Appalachia Project I never gave much consideration to the ways in which my food was prepared. Growing up in a city with a McDonalds on every corner, things like “sustainable agriculture”, “organic gardening”, and “locally grown food” seemed very idealistic. Although I was aware of the horrible methods used by factory farms to mass produce something as simple as a cheeseburger, the carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides were always an afterthought with price being the top priority. Fast food alienates the customer so much from the source of the food, with the techniques used to create the food being so hidden, that most people just assume the food is safe.
The families involved with the Grow Appalachia project vary greatly in economic conditions, education levels, and housing situations. Their gardens are all radically different, not only in size but in content. The only thing that connects a majority of the Grow Appalachia participants is their desire to maintain or reclaim their traditional agricultural heritage. Not only does this add to their autonomy from the world of processed food, it also allows them the chance to connect with their communities through meaningful, significant work.
            I am beginning to realize that even though it may seem like fast, or highly processed food is the only option for a poor college student with limited cooking skills, it most definitely is not. Seeing people’s gardens grow from seeds to fully matured plants, not treated with dangerous chemicals, not genetically altered in a lab, and grown using resources (such as water) conservatively has given me a new perspective on the things that I eat. Not only is this food exponentially more delicious, more nutritious, and more natural than that bought at a fast food corporation, it also provides a sense of pride for the gardener. I often find myself thinking “this is the way that the world is supposed to work”.