Cowan Community Center was pleased to Welcome David Cooke back among friends for a site visit on June 5th. We were also pleased to have as first time guests Candace Mullins and Mark Walden. I believe one result of Eastern Kentucky not having the best of images by some standards is we always look forward to the opportunity to have a friend like David come back and new friends come for a visit to have the opportunity to say, forget what you’ve read, what jokes you’ve heard, let us show you what we love about our Eastern Kentucky home. Grow Appalachia and it’s participants and gardens are one of the things we love and were happy to share.
We began our morning at the Appalachian Child Care Center and got to enjoy seeing the students there plant their gardens in their newly made and leveled raised beds, never to be taken for granted for by our youth interns who put several hours of sweat equity into the simple boxes. Students planted 8 new 4X4 raised beds with fruits and veggies that they had the opportunity to taste and sample before planting. The children were not disappointing with their level of enthusiasm and appreciation for the magic of gardening. We’ll keep you posted how that grows.
After stopping to visit Poppy and G’s garden we headed to the Cowan Community Center for lunch, prepared by one of our Grow Appalachia participants Heather Lind. David, Candace and Mark had the opportunity to meet several of our participants who were painting barrels in the shade of the pine trees. We also wanted to thank Grow Appalachia supporters and were happy to have partners have lunch with us. Local magistrate, Bobby Howard and his wife were able to join us. The nicest thing about these events to me are not what happens necessarily at the time, but the ripple effect. I’ve had conversations with Debbie since then for special recipes and she came up with a great idea that if we don’t do this year, we will do next year. She had expressed an interest in traveling to the gardens with us after lunch, but wasn’t able to. However, it is on the list of things to do is having a Grow Appalachia tour of gardens. It’s only a seed of an idea now, but I see a fun and informative day soon when we gather and travel to our participant gardens and learn from each other. This might even be a fundraising idea. We were also happy to have a representative from our partner LKLP. We heard from them the next day and received funding for our summer youth interns for the remainder of the summer. Good things are happening when we all work together.
After leaving the Center, we made a quick trip to our Community Garden. A few families took advantage of the opportunity to garden there and with the ground ready, we just planted the remaining ground. The community garden is approximately 60×300. We have sweet corn, field corn, heirloom beans, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe and probably more planted there. We were excited to learn this garden could be a candidate for an irrigation system. David Fisher, David Cooke and Mark Walden had much conversation about that possibility and we are hopeful it becomes a reality.
Our next stop was the garden of Richard and Pat Yinger. Richard and Pat are retired and experienced gardeners but open to new approaches to gardening. They have a small, but very well tended and loved garden. Pat is the primary caregiver, but it is obvious Richard loves it too. He shared that Pat had planted her heirloom beans exactly the way the directions had suggested. Pat has become the voice of Grow Appalachia and makes our phone calls when members need to be contacted for meetings or events. She was THE secretary at the former Whitesburg High School, so everyone knows and loves Pat and listens when she calls. The stories Richard told at the gardens made you laugh and cry. I’m still learning how connected folks, especially good folks are to their garden. Makes you wonder which came first?
Our last visit was at the home of Rondall and Sharon Meade, second year participants and long time community members. Rondall and Sharon garden with his sister Cassie and they produce plenty of produce. After visiting their garden we took a little tour behind his house to a former strip mining site, just for the view. This land is a new possibility for a prision that may be built in Letcher County. I know their is controversy with this in the mountains, but on this day one could not help but be awed by the view.