I love the movie Groundhog Day. For those of you who have not seen it I will give you a brief synopsis. It is an early 1990s movie featuring Bill Murray as a self-obsessed weatherman named Phil Connors who is sent to cover the Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney, PA for the fourth year in a row. He gets stuck in Punxsutawney and awakes to find himself reliving February 2 over and over again. Since he is forced to relive the same day many times he finds himself asking questions about his life that had never occurred to him before.

Although I woke up this morning to find that I am not stuck in a time loop, but that it is actually February 3rd, I am wondering whether Punxsutawney Phil’s (the official groundhog) prediction of six more weeks of winter is going to hold true. Or, did we even have a winter to begin with?
As I sit at my desk feeling the urge to be in the garden because it has been 60˚ outside this week, I know that it is actually still winter and so I sit here with my mind full of questions about Grow Appalachia.

 How do I get families who have never gardened before to take an interest and commit to the program? How can we improve our marketing system from last year? How do I make the connection between the physical act of working in the garden and the way we think about preparing meals so that we are actually saving money on groceries and eating healthy food? How do I learn to speak as an advocate for local/homegrown produce and healthy cooking habits in a way that speaks to the minds and stomachs of my community? (That was one of my new year’s goals remember?) I am trying to find which terms are appropriate for my area, what images will appeal to my community, etc.

Photograph collages from
The Lexicon of  Sustainability

The above questions are ones I suspect many people who work in the food and agriculture realm across the country struggle with. Words are important and the way I speak can influence how my conversation partner perceives and becomes emotionally tied to an issue.  Before I can talk to a potential Grow Appalachia gardener, a local politician, or ask for a donation I have to know how to approach the subject. The language of sustainable agriculture is often unclear and includes words that are emotionally charged for so many people. For instance, I just used the word “sustainable” in the previous sentence which seems to be a provocative word in central Appalachia.  A new project, The Lexicon of Sustainability, has started to address the issue of language, nationwide, in the good food movement (wait, I just used some of that language didn’t I?) through photographs and interviews with farmers, advocates, and artisans. If you are interested in great food and artwork you should visit their website and look at these images. You can also read an article about the project on Civil Eats, which has become my favorite website over the last month.

I am not Phil Connors from Groundhog Day and time keeps moving for me. I do not have one day to make all of my mistakes until I figure it out. But I am actually incredibly happy that I am not Phil Connors. For one, I don’t have any desire to be a middle-aged man working as a weatherman on the east coast. I am sure that over the course of this growing season I am going to make a lot of mistakes, but I am also going to learn a lot, and maybe find the answers to some of my questions. 

If you have any answers or musings on my above questions feel free to let me know! Comment on the blog or send an email to mashmore@pinemountainsettlementschool.com.