Sometimes when either Marcelle or I start to write this week’s blog entry we hit that solid wall called writer’s block. We start to think about how things have gone this week and what all we have done and BLAM! It seems that we have done nothing all week. I don’t think that can possibly be true—because at our respective homes we both hit the bed in a collapsed pile of fatigued muscles.
This week in the 30-45 seconds before I fall dead asleep, I have been thinking about all the partnerships that have developed since we started this project. It is really a miracle.
West Virginia State University Extension
The folks at WV State University Extension have been incredibly generous with time, hard work and materials. During the first year they started a small fruits garden with and for the kids here. Raspberries, strawberries, grapes, and kiwis (which we learned are gooseberries!) are growing out front. Grow Appalachia has helped with building a deer fence after some deer damage occurred during the winter.
The Extension folks also turned us on to the Junior Master Gardener’s curriculum. So our kids have been able to work on many of the activities contained in the Jr. Master Gardener program.
Extension also came out this year and planted the most incredibly creative garden to tie in with literature activities for the kids in our summer camp program. The book they studied was Tops and Bottoms, a delightful story about the interaction between a very industrious rabbit-gardener and a sleepy, lazy bear. The smart gardening rabbit wins out over the sleepy, snoring bear in a lovely turn of smart thinking and wise garden management.
21st Century Community Learning Centers
The US Department of Ed program is the basis for our children’s programs here at Big Ugly. Aligning Grow Appalachia and our other partners allows our families, who often do not have reliable transportation, to come to the community center and participate in some of our activities. The after school program and the summer enrichment camp which offer transportation and meals for the students allows us to integrate gardening and the Jr. Master Gardner’s activities into their time.
Other Community Gardening Programs
Our greenhouse has sent plants to other local community gardening programs: one in Logan, WV and another in the South Park neighborhood of Charleston. At the meeting in Logan, we met others who are gardening in community settings as well as a store owner who can sell our local plants and produce. WVSU Extension has offered us better materials to use to improve the greenhouse.
Bonner Scholars at Earlham College
Our relationship with the Bonner Scholarship program, which is built entirely on principles of cultivating community engagement, took us to Earlham College in early June. While there, we were able to sell enough basil plants to offset some of our seed costs. In addition, Earlham has developed a totally student operated and managed farm built on a sustainability model. I was able to visit the farm and meet with one of the students who is part of the small farm community. It was a learning time for me as well as for the students who had to move from the idealistic images of sustainable farming to the reality of what it means in actual practice. I was impressed with the type of learning I saw.
There is so much to what is Growing Here in Appalachia. My writer’s block was lifted. But now I need to go wrap the 30 loaves of bread I made for the 1st Big Ugly Farmer’s Market and Community Happening tomorrow. Ya’ll come!