On March 13th, Growing Warriors and Grow Appalachia held a high tunnel workshop at the home of Joseph and Heather Fields from Berea. “Joey” is a veteran of three (3) service tours in Iraq. Along with his wife Heather their young son (and one on the way) they are step by step developing their homestead into a sustainable production farm and a revenue generator that would allow Joey to spend more time on the homestead.

The days’ weather was challenging – with snow all morning and wind gust of 20 mph – we had concerns about how many participants would show up. Our worries were soon alleviated when by noon we had close to 70 people in attendance!

We actually started the construction on the previous Monday in a cold steely rain. Fortunately for Growing Warriors there happen to be a dozen or so service learning students from Notre Dame University looking for something to do – they enjoyed their spring break a little differently than most college students!


Behind the camera of the above pictures is a true Grow Appalachia hero – Candace Mullins. Candace has worked hard this spring to make sure things run smoothly at the Grow Appalachia home base. She also put some muscle into getting this high tunnel framed up. Thanks Candace!!

Once we got going and reached the point that we needed to pull plastic the wind decided to gust around 20 mph and we could all picture mother nature giggling a little as we tried to get set up. Fortunately for us we had a team of 70 and they were going to make it happen regardless of a “little” wind.

First we set up on the up-wind side of the tunnel


Next, folks on this side set their feet on the plastic against the base and the second crew was ready on the opposite side to catch the plastic. As we picked up the plastic a big gust of wind came along and the command of “LET GO” was sounded and…..

IMG_0139 ONE IMG_0140 TWO

IMG_0144 THREE and Done!

As easy as that! We obviously all walked around with our heads up high (like we meant to do it just like that. Ha)

Once the plastic was over and attached people quickly realized how warm it was inside of the yet to be finished high tunnel. The discussion and fellowship retreated inside.

On a tangent here: I had the opportunity to attend a faculty and staff meeting at Berea College recently and heard Dr. Lyle Roelofs -the new president of Berea College – discuss his interest in supporting not only college projects but community building projects and outreach as well. So It should not have been a surprise when …….


It was so great to see Dr. Roelofs inside the tunnel- showing his support – and building community good will. Here Dr. Roelofs is pictured with military veteran Mike Lewis  and Kentucky Department Of Agriculture representative Ben Shaffar.

Thank You Dr. Roelofs for your support!!

Another welcomed face was Janet Meyer of the Berea College Organic Farm. Janet held a discussion – inside the tunnel of course – regarding the techniques and challenges of growing in a high tunnel.


Janet discussed the ups and downs of production from spacing to disease issues and beyond that the true challenges to growing within organic standards. If anyone knows successful high tunnel production it is local farm hero Janet Meyer. Thank you Janet for your dedication and support in this endeavor.

If you look over Janet’s left shoulder in the light blue coat is Carolyn Gahn of CFA and the Agriculture legacy initiative. The Agriculture Legacy Initiative is a program to connect resources with new and beginning farmers in our region. Carolyn was a huge part of making this workshop happen and we certainly want to thank Carolyn and Community Farm Alliance for their involvement and support.

Now the treat of the day!! Fresh Fried Fish Fillets (can you say that five times really fast:)) Golden Brown Hush Puppies and crispy crinkle cut fries. A hot meal on a cold day, glorious! Those of you who think this is unhealthy, well…. OK but in moderation it is worth it!

Wayne Riley and his team showed up in full force and stocked with everything including the kitchen sink!!


The Laurel County African American Heritage Center was so gracious to sponsor and support this workday. Wayne and his team of merry men and women worked through the challenges of gusty wind blowing out their burners, periodic snow flurries in the out!.. and a group of 70 hungry and cold people lurking around the fryers like a puppy under foot waiting for Wayne to accidentally drop a hush puppy or fish fillet.

Thank you Wayne and the team from The African American Heritage Center, this couldn’t have been done with out you.

David Dr Roelofs

I think you all know the guy on my left and Dr. Roelofs right. David Cooke the man with a plan. I do not need to say much about David his actions in central Appalachia say it all. A true pioneer in the work to help central Appalachia’s people find solutions to everyday challenges and inspiring folks to achieve the skills and entrepreneurial attitudes to achieve the quality of life they so desire.

So all in all a fantastic day. We were beat but satisfied, many individuals left with a smile on their face, a belly full of food and a new set of skills to ponder. A success by any measure.

A few more thanks, John Hancock of Agribility, Amanda Sears – Madison County Extension office, Joseph and Heather Fields for putting up with us, and Deena Wheby from National Resource Conservation Service

And ” Billy Jack” LeFevers for the kick butt raised bed everyone had to drive past to get to the fish fry..IMG_0108

Thanks to all,

Mark Walden