August 1st-5th, 2011

                This event was planned by myself, Magan Meade and Fred Rweru, the GROW Appalachia interns of Red Bird Mission.  We were carefully guided by Bettina Balmer, the Coordinator for the GROW Appalachia program for Red Bird.  Undergoing the planning for this event is a lot more effort than one would think.  Donations were given by the GROW Appalachia, Red Bird Farmer’s Project, Red Bird Mission and Bettina Balmer and her husband with Red Bird Crest Farm.
                August 5th, 2011 was a busy one for the GROW Appalachia program, as we had a guest from Eastern Kentucky University, Karrie Adkins, the Program Coordinator for Regional Stewardship.  She is the person in charge of appointing Fred and I to our intern positions here at Red Bird.  We wanted to make sure that Karrie was able to experience how much Red Bird is contributing in all of its programs and not just GROW Appalachia.  The community store and the craft store were the first places we took Karrie to show her Red Bird’s unique qualities.  The community store sells low price items to the community from all over the country and the craft store allows a place for local artisans to display their unique crafts for sale.  Not only does this craft store give locals another source of income but also provides an identity for the Appalachian community, which is also some of the goals of GROW Appalachia. 
                Next, we were off to the GROW Appalachia garden sites through highway 2000, a mostly one lane road in the mountains of Appalachia.  If you want a true glimpse at Appalachia, I recommend this highway.  The first stop we made was at Brenda Burnette’s.  Her garden was centered in a valley across the street from her home.  She had potatoes as far as the eye can see.  She claimed that her tomatoes were not doing too good and that she had harvested most of her crops in the early summer before the spring plants got too hot in the later summer days.  She was a very nice lady and more than happy to have us look in her garden.
Pine View Farm

Pine View Farm Market
                Another place that we decided was important to show Karrie, in order to know more about this area, was the Pine View Farm, where we bought most of our plants for GROW Appalachia. It was a long drive to get to but was well worth the trip.  Upon arrival, you can see the beautiful petunias in a row mixed with pinks and purples.  When entering their market, the smell of fresh fruits tickles your nose.  It smelt amazingly sweet.  When examining the market, there was a fluttering of stories among us about what our grandparents or parents used to make from their gardens, which was on display in the market; salsas, jams/jellies, honey, different sorts of chow chow and so on.  We can also relate to the participants’ gardens and how they use so many family recipes and traditions for their fruits and vegetables.  After the Mennonite Garden, we stopped at Roselean Wagers garden, whose daughter, Denise was doing just that.
Wagers’ canned goods
                She showed us her different plots of gardens and all of her beautiful flowers and fruit trees.  Her property was sitting on a spot, where they had removed the mountain top for coal mining.  Her family had transformed it into a spot, where she can now raise her gardens.  She was insistent about inviting us in to exhibit her canning that she had done from the garden.  It may seem weird but it was a beautiful thing to see how much these gardens contribute to someone’s food supply.  I can’t imagine traveling on Highway 2000 in the middle of the winter-time, I just don’t see how it’s possible. 
Some more canned goods by the Wagers

Some cucumbers ready for pickling out of the Wagers garden
                The end of our visits consisted of Bettina Balmer and her church’s garden.  She is a woman that knows what she is doing.  She even constructed a raised bed for her little neighbor, Mackenzie, which was beautiful and she was so proud of.  The butterflies really enjoyed it too.  Bettina had a lot of the crops I talked about in my Four Season Gardening presentation and more.  She was one of our major sources for our Farmer’s Market.  She told us that she mainly wants to focus on red raspberries for her business, which she showed us up on the hill.  Red raspberries are my absolute favorite! Fruits could do really well with the GROW Appalachia participants because a lot of market purchasers look for sweets.  Also, berries do very well in the mountains.
Mackenzie’s garden

Bettina Balmer’s red raspberries
                Even though the tour was a very great way to spend our day, we had tons to do back at Red Bird for the Community Picnic.  As soon as we got back, we set up everything and we were surprised with early participants.  I believe this showed the excitement for this event.  Pretty soon, everyone was arriving, bringing their fantastic garden dishes which included; garden tomatoes, various types of corn salad, bowls of chili with peppers including habanero, various types of green beans, sauerkraut, pickled beets, and much more.  Also some of the participants brought spearmint tea, which was gone after a few seconds, and fresh milk from their cows.  I felt so blessed to be a part of their great feast.  I can’t believe how good the cooking is down here!  I heard great conversations about sharing equipment and various methods people use on their farms and making new contacts/friends.  I knew that we were reaching one of our goals that GROW Appalachia had set out to do, this was the whole purpose of this event.  Participants brought their family recipes and shared excitement at trying to make each other’s dishes.  I’m hoping that they will use the recipes as a fundraising book for GROW Appalachia or maybe just share among the participants.  Then we ended the night with door prizes and some BINGO. 
The potluck from the garden

Gardeners/Farmers ready to eat

Esther Mason’s fresh cow milk
               I just want to say in my last post, that I was very blessed to have this opportunity to be working with remarkable people.  They were more than willing to invite us inside when we arrived to their gardens and share their food.  I really hope that I made a good contribution to this program and through this blog, I was able to exemplify the effect that GROW Appalachia has on families in the Appalachian region, more specifically around Red Bird.  Again, these are great people.  Thank you!