Saturday morning, on a rainy Mother’s Day weekend, Grow Appalachia participants filled the cafeteria at Cowan Elementary School to learn best practices in garden management from Grow Appalachia Assistant Director, Mark Walden.
We had to change our location at the last minute as the Community Center was decorated for a special birthday celebration, but the Letcher County School System was generous to allow the use of their cafeteria at the last minute. Although, I always love the comfortable feeling of meeting at the Community Center, it was nice to see our schools being used as a gathering place as they were when they were the center of the community for all events. Thanks to Tony Sergent, Superintendent and Sherry Lucas, Secretary and Grow Appalachia participant for making it happen.
I like to begin our meeting with a sharing of what is happening with the Grow Appalachia program. Perhaps, it was the school cafeteria/former gymnasium setting, but this sharing soon took on a pep rally feel. The first round of applause came when we shared the Farmers Market was now eligible to accept WIC vouchers which can be matched with Community Farm Alliance Double Dollars Program. What a good feeling to be in a room with folks who recognize the value of good nutrition for mothers and children and benefits in sales to growers. Another round of applause came for the ten participants who completed the Microprocessing workshop. It was easy to look around the room and find others to highlight and recognize. After the meeting, Carol Ison, Center Director suggested we have a more formal celebration at the end of the season to recognize accomplishments of the group. The participants are taking ownership of the program and with that will better shape it to meet their needs.
Mark echoed the potential for agriculture growth in our region, sharing novel ideas for development in the region. We can not hear those positive messages enough, especially when supported w/resources and support to actualize. We had transported our garden supplies to the school for distribution on this day. Mark began his talk w/guidance on preventive maintenance in the garden and how important that was. When intervention was needed, organic supplies will be available. Mark did a thorough job in discussing the application process for each of the products GA has available for participants. (Please see earlier blog for a complete list of products and their recommended usage.) As GA Coordinator, it was very reassuring to have Mark sharing best practices and cautions for these products. I’m sure these were new for the majority of the participants. I believe the product most were anxious to use was the Surround Clay. There was time for question and answer at the end. One participant commented after that she had taken twelve pages of notes.
We had door prizes at the end of the session. Sprayers were given out, our first winner graciously declined as he had one and wanted it to go to someone else. Coy Fields heirloom bean seeds, provided by Bobby and Kathy Adams were grand prizes. I had enticed folks to the meeting with a promise of fresh sausage and bacon from the Chop Shop, but with the change in locations and a family emergency on my part, we had muffins and water, but I brought the bacon, sausage and fresh eggs as a door prize.
After Marks presentation and prizes, participants came by tables to sign their supplies out. I noticed the line was stalling at the end, Logan, our GA Intern was talking w/GA participants and slowing things down considerably. Tsk…Tsk….I needed to check on this. When I got to the hold up, I understood immediately. Not only had Logan transported the GA supplies to the school, he had brought his own supply of harvested bean seeds to share with participants. This was after Mark Walden had shared Grow Appalachia would purchase these seeds during his presentation. He still wanted to share these seeds with others. Logan was chatting with the participants, telling the bean names and what to expect. Granted, not a very formal distribution and hard to track, but certainly heartwarming to see what is a goal of Grow Appalachia happening naturally, as it should.
A goal of Cowan Community Action Group is to not only grow gardens but for our community to grow as well. Our group is challenged this year with the number of participants. I hear participants say they see new members they have never met before at our meetings. This is good in many ways, but we must find ways to keep folks involved and provide opportunity for the cross pollination of our community as well as the garden. I’m certainly open to any suggestions from the GA community on how I can help facilitate this.