Greetings from the Cowan Community Center!

The shared stand.

This past weekend in Whitesburg, a local media organization, Appalshop, hosted a festival called Seedtime which is devoted to celebrating Appalachian people and traditions.  Part of the festival included an array of booths on the main drag, and the festival organizers asked two GrowAppalachia sites, the Pine Mountain Settlement School and the Cowan Community Center to set up shop and talk to people about GrowAppalachia and the projects that they’ve undertaken.

Items given away by the Cowan Community Center.
The Pine Mountain Settlement School reps and their information/seeds.
Seeds and books the Cowan Center brought to engage children visiting the stand.

In preparation for Seedtime, the Cowan Community Center gathered garden goodies together for a free raffle.  One of the gardeners is a phenomenal canner and preserver, and she jumped to donate sauerkraut, pickles, salsa, jams, and jellies for the raffle.  In addition to canned goods, we gave away organic fertilizer (much milder than any fertilizer that you can buy around Whitesburg: Harmony and Azomite fertilizers) and some bug repellant (also much less noxious than the normal type used in gardens in the area: Spinosad Lawn and Garden Concentrate).  Another vendor at the festival had been eyeing the organic fertilizer all weekend and when the time came to draw for it he was there, fingers crossed, as if we were drawing for a four-wheeler.  His aunt ended up winning the fertilizer, and offered to share it between their two gardens so both walked away, quite excited with their win.  The woman who won the bug spray ended up being a master gardener, a woman who took classes in gardening and whose garden was consistently checked up on by her teachers.  She said she’d been searching for this sort of bug spray, that it was exactly the sort she needed in her garden.  A lot of connections were made that weekend with similar individuals who did have a background in gardening and will be valuable tools in upcoming iterations of GrowAppalachia.  Quite a few non-local individuals stopped by the stand, and were curious about how GrowAppalachia started/where the money came from.  All of them were excited to hear about John Paul DeJoria’s ideas and benevolence and the support that Berea has been providing to all of the sites.

A festival attendee checking out Pine Mountain Settlement School’s corn grinder.

Mitch Whittaker, a representative from the UK extension office of Letcher County (a partner of the Cowan Community Center) attracting crowds to the GrowAppalachia area as he shows off birds the center has rehabilitated.

A great variety of individuals visited the stand: those who said they loved to garden but had no way of tilling, no idea how to make their cucumbers grow right, all the way to those who had gardened their whole life and wanted to share their favorite way to grow peas.  Some people visited the stand who had their own community garden projects underway (like an organic gardening initiative just begun in Letcher County) and were looking to engage and collaborate with the GrowAppalachia project.  Others still came visiting to try and collaborate with community gardeners on documentary work; one man from southern Virginia was interested in working with Letcher County to preserve Appalachian gardening tradition and create a collective understanding of the food process, from garden to table.  It was a wonderful experience, to chat gardening with the people of Letcher and surrounding counties for two days, learning and sharing with everybody.