Raising a garden was something mom and dad did from as far back as I can remember. This was how we survived throughout the year. I think my earliest memories start when I was about ten years old, in the late 1970’s. I was the oldest, so I was always expected to help out. This was normal to me. It was our way of life. Mom and dad’s gardens were not typical. We always had gardens the size of football fields. They would raise anything and everything you could think of. The typical garden consisted of potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets, onions, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, and lettuce and a few other things thrown in the mix from time to time. It was never easy and took up a lot of my time, but I never complained because it had to be done. Getting the fields ready and planting was the easiest part. It was taking care of it and the harvesting that were the hard parts. I remember having to go to the river and pack five gallon buckets of water for the plants when it was too dry. We would carry the buckets up and down each row until all were watered. I also remember having to get up very early to get the weeds out and hoe the plants before it got too hot. Mom and dad were very particular about how their garden looked. They were so proud. Mom would often take pictures as it grew.
In the late 1980’s, mom and dad decided to build a small green house so they could raise their own plants for their garden and as a way for them to make extra money by selling the plants they had left over. The little extra income benefited the family greatly.
My mom passed away suddenly in 2007 so the garden suddenly started to disappear. Dad realized how hard it was to do it without help. He continued to put a garden out for the next several years with minimal effort and vegetables. All the years of hard work and determination had come to an end.
I just don’t understand why people don’t raise gardens anymore. I have come to the conclusion that parents do not instill this in their children, so they are hesitant in doing it. Or, they may feel that it would not benefit them. Most do not realize how this could supplement their income and be more beneficial to their overall health.
I am very grateful to be able to take part in the Grow Appalachia project through Step by Step and the Big Ugly Community Center. People are now gaining knowledge and getting excited again. The project has helped so many people take that step in growing a garden and giving them a sense of pride in watching it grow and then being able to eat it. We have made great strides the last couple of years to make the project a success and people are very pleased and want to continue having a garden of their own.
The exciting part for me is that we are able to get the students involved in what we are doing with the project. A few of our students didn’t know what a garden was and the ones who did know, had never had the chance to experience it. We have several raised beds on site at the community center, so that gave us the opportunity to let them experience these new things and to get excited about it. Just seeing a smile on their faces or hearing the laughter when they get excited is worth it all to me. Who would have thought that you could have so much fun playing in the dirt? Then we watched how excited they got when they realized they could put a seed in the ground, nurture it and watch it grow. I look forward to doing more with them in the upcoming year. I take great pride in having the opportunity to work with the students on something that means so much to me. These are memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and besides, who needs grocery stores when you have gardens?