For all of you Grow Appalachia coordinators this blog post will be old news but we thought it would be nice for all our participants and other blog readers if we recapped the site coordinators meeting that we had in Berea this week. David Cooke was gracious enough to heed all our requests to have a get together of all the site coordinators, and this past Tuesday and Wednesday we did just that. It was really great to put faces with names and get to meet all the coordinators and hear what each site has in mind for the upcoming season. This year there will be 15 sites representing 4 states; Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, participating in Grow Appalachia. These include Red Bird Mission, Henderson Settlement, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Laurel County African American Heritage Center, Lincoln Memorial University, St. Vincent Mission, High Rocks for Girls, Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program, Cowan Creek Community Center, Mujeres Unidas (KY River Foothills Development Council), Project Worth, Step by Step, and Scott Christian Care Center. Representatives from each of these sites were present at the meeting and we were all able to get to know one another and learn about what Grow Appalachia at each site looks like.
            We had the opportunity to learn all about high tunnels, what they can be used for, how they can be constructed on a budget, and some growing techniques that are necessary when growing in high tunnels. This Information may be very useful in the future for many of the Grow Appalachia sites, as we look at ways to grow more and to start our own plants for our participants. We also had the wonderful opportunity to hear from Janet Meyer, Berea College’s greenhouse and farm manager. Berea has a certified organic farm that produces much of the food that is used on campus and Janet was able to provide us with wonderful information about organic growing practices and practical tips for our gardening programs.
            Several additional topics that we discussed were budgeting, tool choices, ordering seed, various marketing and distribution plans, and the possibility of new directions for the program. We also discussed the goals of grow Appalachia which are based on the following mission statement:

o    Grow Appalachia is dedicated to helping mountain families plant a healthy future for themselves and their communities by:
·         Providing them with skills and resources to grow sustainable, nutritious food.
·         Teaching them how to prepare and preserve food in a healthy way.
·         Empowering them to share their knowledge in the community.
·         Creating programs to provide food to elderly and disabled residents in need.

Through these smaller steps, we as Grow Appalachia Coordinators hope to inspire long term independence such that gardeners and small farmers in Appalachia are able to provide food for themselves and their families and even support their families through the marketing of their produce.
  I feel that this year’s group of coordinators is highly knowledgeable and quite inspiring; I’m looking forward to a great year collaborating with all of you and figuring out just how this program is going to make an impact and hopefully change food systems and lives in Appalachia.