July 25-29, 2011

                After weeks and weeks of studying and researching the “4 Season Garden”, I presented the class on July 28th, 2011.  As an intern, I have learned the value of the details in planning a presentation to the public.  Each day, getting ready for the presentation, I would find new and interesting information to add to my power point and handouts.  I learned how important and resourceful it would be to include handouts.  I wanted to leave the GROW Appalachia participants with resources that they can refer to and start a four season garden with.  My handouts included a harvest chart for a four season garden, a publication from the Kentucky Extension Office on four seasons gardening in Kentucky, and winter garden recipes that are simple and fast to make.  I also, included a survey that would ask GROW Appalachia participants about various perspectives of the program and their participation in the program.  The purpose of the survey was to give us an idea on how we can better support, GROW Appalachia participants.  

                My experience with researching Four Season Gardening has been a very interesting one.  My main resource that I followed was, Eliot Coleman’s “Four Season Harvest”.  His garden took place in Maine, which was in Zone 5 and the zone that we are working with in Kentucky is Zone 6, which means we can have a little bit more of an extended season through warmer weather.  I had to refer to the 2011 Farmer’s Almanac, which gave me the frost dates for Lexington, KY, which were April 15th and October 25th.  I also found a publication from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, called “Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky”, which gave me different crops to raise in Kentucky in the other three seasons besides summer (we also gave this out as one of our prizes).  I was warned by the Eastern Kentucky University Agriculture Department and Red Bird Mission staff that it would be very important to get people in this area to like the “greens” and types of vegetables that would be grown in the other seasons.  Therefore, I included pictures of the different types of winter, fall, and spring greens and next to those pictures; I included an image of a dish that they could make with those greens.  After doing so much research, I was astounded by how much nutrition was in these greens that our previous generations had consumed.  My mother told me that my grandfather would gather dandelion greens from the yard and cook them to eat.  Come to find out that dandelion greens are better for you than the stereotyped super food, broccoli.  Each of these greens contained at least Vitamin A, C, various forms of B, and K, Omega-3’s, fiber, and were proven to prevent prostate and colon cancer, anemia, osteoporosis, and various forms of heart disease.  It seems that this is the answer American society has been looking for right in our own backyards but it would almost be a cultural change.  These super power greens included; mizuna, mache, escarole/endive, dandelions, chicory, collard/mustard greens, spinach, kale, swiss chard, argula, claytonia, parsley, and tatsoi, which are very popular in Eastern societies including Europe.

                Along with learning about these different types of greens, I had to find cheap methods for GROW Appalachia participants to prolong the seasons.  Some examples of various ways to extend the season included burlap, sheets/covers, shade cloth (can use sheer curtains), cold frames such as plastic row covers or boxes, plastic containers, greenhouses, mulching, and I told them to be inventive with whatever they may have on hand.  Resources that they can find in their own houses or yards are Kentucky cane, leaves, grass clippings, old pots and pans, storm windows, hay barrels, cinder blocks, etc.  It was amazing how much you can do with the materials you already have.  I stressed the need to be inventive and it is pretty fun.  It was also important to me to include a video on how to construct a cold frame.  The video that I included in my power point was a common man putting together a cold frame from his back yard.  I thought it was good for them to see a project like that can be put together in not a lot of time, easily, and inexpensively.  I think the most expensive item he bought for his cold frame was the vent.   He bought the vent from a hardware store for $20 that had a self-ventilating system.  

                This information did not go wasted!  We gave out prizes to help with their garden or food preserving and we also gave out some seeds that they could use for a fall/spring/winter garden.  We also made a sign up list if they were interested in any other four season garden seeds that we did not have at the meeting that we could order.  We had some people order the usual crops that they figured out that they could extend into another season and a handful of participants were willing to experiment with the greens and other crops that I had talked about, which meant a lot to me.  
                I was very satisfied with my hard work and time that I had spent on this four season garden presentation.  I hope that GROW Appalachia can take this knowledge and run with it in the program.  I reminded the GROW Appalachia participants that this was an experiment.  They may be harvesting in the middle of the winter when it is too hard to d
rive around these snow covered mountains. 
                I hope the atmosphere of Thursday night will carry on into our Community Picnic for GROW Appalachia and Red Bird Farmer’s Project participants on August 5th at 6:30pm.  Upon learning the goals and aspirations of GROW Appalachia’s program, we wanted to inspire a more in depth sense of community among the participants of these two programs.  In my perspective, I had not seen enough sharing of knowledge and methods of gardening and I did not see that real cohesiveness of a farming community that had once been in the Appalachian region.  So, we thought maybe to inspire more relations and support among the participants, we should at least bring them together in a social event besides their usual workshops and classes.  What better way to bring people together than food!  Not just any food but food that was raised from the hard work and sweat off of these people backs.  These truly are amazing people.  In my next blog for Red Bird, I will let you know how the event went.

                On another note, Red Bird Mission is still working hard on trying to get our Farmer’s Market going.  It still seems to be that the problem is not in the buyers but in the sellers.  A lot of people are either storing their food or giving it to their friends and families.  This past weekend, Chad Brock and I had to find some crops to sell from the campus gardens.  We had scrounged up some lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, squash, and some green peppers to sell.  It’s touching to see that this community would rather help each other through giving food than see one another go hungry.