Fall is festival time in eastern Kentucky. The cooler weather and the colorful hills are a tip off that it is time for parades, beauty pageants and the Jenny Wiley Festival.
The Festival gets its name from Jenny Wiley, a legendary pioneer woman who was taken captive by hunting party of native Americans in 1789. Jenny, whose brother and children were killed in the attack, was held for several months in what is presently Little Mud Lick Creek, Johnson County, Kentucky. She managed to escape to Harman’s Blockhouse in what was then Floyd County. With the help of the settlers at Harman’s Blockhouse, Jenny made her way back to Walker’s Creek, Virginia where she began a new family with her husband, Thomas. In approximately 1800, the Wiley family crossed the Big Sandy River, and settled in what is currently Johnson County, Kentucky.
There is a historical trail in Jenny’s honor that runs from Johnson to Floyd County and goes right by Harman’s Landing. The Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg is named in her honor. And so is our festival.
This was the second year our Grow Appalachia team had a booth at the festival. This year we partnered with the Floyd County Farmers’ Market and Appalachian Roots. We had volunteers participate in the Jenny Wiley 5K Walk/Run Against Diabetes and had all sorts of wonderful conversations about the Farmers’ Market, farming and gardening in general and Grow Appalachia specifically. We had several new families express an interest in being a part of our 2014 program. They loved the thought of growing and preserving fresh food, something that was sorely lacking at the festival.
Blooming onions, funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos were in abundance but I did not find one booth with veggies, fresh or otherwise. Floyd County was ranked last of Kentucky’s 120 counties in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2013 County Health Ranking report. Watching the people passing by our booth, I could see at least one reason our ranking was so bad—junk food.
But next year things will be different. We hope to have a Farmers’ Market booth at the festival. This year we ended our season the week before the festival because our market spot becomes the food court location during the festival. But best of all, if things go as planned, fresh food will be available too, provided by Grow Appalachia families and processed in home based and certified kitchens. Veggies on a stick anyone?