Back to nature, learning to nurture  

Grow Appalachia, UK Extension, Bell County Forestry Camp team up for gardening & health

By Brandy Calvert

UK Extension Agent

CHENOA, Ky. — While it took an unfortunate situation to bring budding farmers to the Bell County Forestry Camp, participants in the Grow Appalachia gardening program are fortunate to play a part in the project and are obtaining knowledge and skills that can help to sustain them throughout their lives.

The basic purpose of Grow Appalachia is to teach and support the people of Appalachia in addressing the tragedy of hunger in the region by learning to grow their own food to feed themselves.

In early 2009, the development office at Berea College received a phone call from an individual who was interested in helping families in the Appalachian mountains grow more of their own food. This gentleman was Tommy Callahan, Senior Vice President of Training and Development, John Paul Mitchell Systems (JPMS). Tommy was inquiring on behalf of John Paul Dejoria, co-founder and CEO of JPMS. John Paul, as a businessman who had surmounted enormous odds in the process of building a very large business organization, is a man who believes strongly that, “Success not shared is failure.” Among his many other philanthropic activities he had tackled the problem of hunger head on in Africa. Over time he had come to believe that it was time to address hunger and food security issues in the US. Tommy, John Paul’s long time business associate, is from Harlan County, Kentucky, and has a deep sensitivity towards the challenges that face Appalachian families every day.

From there, Grow Appalachia was born and the project took on partners. One of those partners is Bell County’s own Henderson Settlement.

Henderson Settlement, a United Methodist affiliated mission institution in Frakes, has been involved in education and agriculture since 1925, and enthusiastically partnering with Grow Appalachia since 2010.

Jackie Waldroop, the Coordinator of Grow Appalachia at Henderson Settlement, has teamed up with Bell County Forestry Camp Warden Kathy Litteral, where inmates have two flourishing gardens that have produced over 700 pounds of vegetables this summer.

Warden Litteral is excited about having the Grow Appalachia program at the camp, and spoke on the importance of the opportunity to nurture. “For years, I have noticed that inmates need something to take care of. I had a houseplant on my desk that needed attention, and they would offer to pick the dead leaves off of it or water it.” Litteral said she realized that the ability to nurture something gives individuals a sense of pride and helps in the re-entry process that inmates will go through.

In addition to learning the basics of gardening and maintaining the two on-site gardens, inmates are learning about their health through information and lessons provided by the Bell County Cooperative Extension Service Agents.

The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is the most comprehensive outreach and engagement program at the University of Kentucky.

The Extension Service’s mission, simply stated, is to make a difference in the lives of Kentucky citizens through research-based education. Jointly with Kentucky’s other land-grant partner, Kentucky State University, Extension takes the University to the people in their local communities, addressing issues of importance of all Kentuckians.

Bell County Agriculture Extension Agent Stacy White has lent his expertise and University-provided information to the participants at the camp on several occasions.

Bell County Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent Rebecca Miller and SNAP-ED Assistant Gail Brock taught participants a lesson on heart health. The inmates learned about cardiovascular disease, risk factors, dietary factors and the ways to keep their hearts healthy. Inmates prepared a heart healthy recipe, Oven Baked Tomatoes, following the lesson.

Participants indicated that they will aim for fitness with their dietary decisions in the future.  By aiming for a healthy weight, becoming physically active, choosing a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables daily, choosing a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol, limiting sugar, salt and alcohol intake; participants can better their heart health and prolong their lives.

For more information about Grow Appalachia, contact Jackie Waldroop at Henderson Settlement at 337-3613 ext. 326. For more information about the Bell County Extension Service, call 337-2376.