David viewing Talt’s potatoes

Armilda and David at her site

Talt explaining his garden

ASPI had an interesting visit from David this week.  We had an opportunity to introduce him to some of our Grow Appalachia participants while visiting home gardens.  We visited 4 gardens, each of which was very different from the others. 
Talt and Benda’s garden was a beauty.  Talt has gardened for many years, and it shows in his garden.  His potatoes looked ready to begin harvesting!  He and Benda also keep chickens, goats, rabbits, a hog and cows, providing them with all of the meat and much of everything else they eat through the year.  In addition to the site at their home he works with others on 2 additional sites.  Talt also volunteers weekly with a senior group assisting with whatever needs they may have.  He and Benda live in a beautiful home that Talt built, along with building homes for each of his 3 sons.  Lots of energy going on there!  
Our 2nd site was to Armilda’s farm.  She and her husband still grow 4 acres of tobacco each year, but had lost all their saved garden seed this spring.  Grow Appalachia was a ‘life-saver’ for them as they grow much of what they eat (and are raising their grandchildren as well) on a very low income.  Armilda is generous to a fault and shares what she grows with others.  She also grew on many of our plant starts for us this year – and they were beautiful!  Last year she put up 964 quarts of food!!!  She has gardened all her life, starting as a child of 8 when she cared for her younger siblings and had to do most of the gardening, cooking and household work for the entire family.
Next we visited Mary Jo and her husband Josh who have a very small spot behind their house.  Her plants looked great!  Her tomatoes are already over knee tall and lush dark green.  She is a relative new-comer to gardening and Josh, who gives her full credit for the garden – saying that mowing the grass is his contribution, told us the garden looks much improved this year from past gardens.  MaryJo says’ “The program’s really helped me.”  MaryJo is also the leader of the Girl Scout troop that is so actively involved with the project.
Our final site visit of the day was perhaps the garden that needs the most help.  JR has had some health problems and not spent much time in the garden.  It shows!  The site itself is a difficult one, being recently removed from pasture with all its attending weed problems and quite a distance from his house so that tending it is more of a chore.  His plants looked a bit puny, maybe frightened by the overwhelming weeds and unimproved soil.  JR and his family are very much the kind of people Grow Appalachia hopes to help.  We will work closely with him and hope to help him help himself with his needs.  He would like to become self-sufficient and even to raise vegetables, apples and chickens (for eggs) to sell at market.  He has a long way to go, but is eager to learn! 
We are looking forward to working with these folks, as well as the other participants.  What a great bunch we seem to have involved in the project!