Stinking Creek News

Irma Gall

Lend-A-Hand Center

Originally Published in the Barbourville Mountain Advocate


Grow Appalachia is a program of back to the basics of food production. The term basic is basically back to the beginning or to the simplest form or a fundamental way. It is usually quite the opposite of instant gratification or the fast food way of life. In the study of human life we learn there are basic needs—the need to breathe, eat, shelter, love and be loved. All of these are found in the “plant your own garden program” called Grow Appalachia.

This will take time, preparation and nurture very much like raising a baby. None of this happens overnight. The expression “it takes a village to raise a child” fits with raising your own food. It takes commitment on our part, to be sure, but it also takes a “village of soil, sun, rain, seeds, equipment and TLC” to get the rewards. We don’t do it overnight but we can harvest our own beans, potatoes, sweet corn and even pinto beans. Just ask my Y Guys—they have been doing it for several years.


First there must be planning. We have had two planning meetings already at Lend-A-Hand Center and there will be more. The planning turns into preparation: site, soil, equipment and seeds. Soil preparation is so important. That includes temperature, freedom of unwanted plant growth and a good seed receiving base. Should I mention physical labor or is that a given?

irma and tiller

Then for the next four or more weeks comes the TLC. We often wonder how it is the unwanted plants come up so quickly and healthy seeming so much better than the wanted ones. We even have one weed I call “smart weed” as it seems to be a copycat of whatever I plant from beans to carrots to sweet corn. We hesitate to pull it up for fear it is the corn only to regret it later as it takes over and is much harder to get rid of.

This period of four or more weeks is very important. I had a friend, a man whose wife was more interested in gardening than he, who said “the way to tell weeds from good plants was to pull them all out and if it grows back it was a weed”. No wonder his wife preferred him to do something other than garden.

Another basic human need is success.  But gardening can be likened to baseball batting average usually around twenty percent. After the battle with the weeds comes another battle with disease and insects or with the elements, “the village,” not enough rain, too much rain, too hot or too cold. I should include rodents, rabbits, deer or even cows. What damage they can do overnight. My biggest battle the last five years has been the crows and their love of tender young corn just up as well as the developing ears.

Finally after two or three months of almost unrewarding labor the harvest comes in. This is a bit different than just going to the store for a few tomatoes or sweet corn. The expression “first fruits” takes on a whole new meaning. Oh, that first mess of green beans or new potatoes or sweet corn straight from the garden!

Suddenly you realize you have learned about a whole set of new muscles and interest and even a new vocabulary. You have new appreciation for the sun, the rain, the soil and even the taste for food! But just as you are enjoying those new tastes along comes a new challenge; what to do with all that food even though it might only be twenty percent. One lady contracted me to raise some special beans for her. She bought the seed and eagerly waited for her first mess but was not willing to pay for sackful after sackful.

-Irma Gall