On May 23rd, Union College in Barbourville, KY hosted the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) on its final stop of the three-day Kentucky Food System Tour. We were thrilled to have the group stop for a tour of our Barbourville Community Garden! Earl Gohl, the ARC Federal Co-Chair, was joined by other ARC officials, federal and KY agriculture and health departments representatives, and representatives from numerous KY organizations, such as Martin Richards, Executive Director of Community Farm Alliance (CFA), and Gerry Roll, Executive Director of Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky. Representatives of Senator Paul and Congressman Rogers were also present. We were also excited to welcome David Cooke, Candace Mullins, and Mark Walden of Grow Appalachia!
Following the garden visit, the ARC tour group participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Union College and opened to the public. The discussion focused on the intersection of food, health, and economic development in eastern KY.
David Cooke explained that Grow Appalachia develops new farmers and local food economies by working on the family-scale. By working with families on home gardens, individuals within the household will emerge as natural entrepreneurs who will find ways to sell excess produce which will create local markets and economies centered around food. Cooke called this a “pebble in the pond effect.” By working on a small scale, growing gradually, and working with families where they are, not where they should be, Grow Appalachia contributes to establishing lasting local food economies in communities in eastern KY and beyond.
This is just a short snippet of the hour long discussion, but we were so happy to be in the audience and to be a stop on the ARC’s food systems tour!