St. Vincent Mission’s Grow Appalachia program was pleased to work with the City of Martin Housing Authority to start a small community garden at one of their locations, Grisgby Heights. While the number a participants who actually worked in the garden was small, their enthusiasm was not. And neither was their generosity.


By then end of the summer season, the remaining three gardeners had put up 40 quarts of pickles, frozen 21 gallons of tomatoes and 9 gallons of beans and shared corn, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with several of their neighbors.

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Before the recent freeze they had a very respectable greens patch going too. And they are even now thinking of what they want to do differently next year.



Another project we did with the City of Martin Housing Authority was at their Town Center site where we had  a tomato planting party. Director Debbie Wallen and Dale Jacobs, the resident in charge of the Grigsby Height garden, joined me in giving out a dozen tomato buckets. With the help of Town Center resident, John Paul, we transplanted several tomato plants I had grown from seed into buckets and then sprinkled a bit of lettuce seed on top. The residents were encouraged to place their buckets in front of their apartment in the full sun and told how to care for the new plants.

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Transplanting on the farm truck bed

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John Paul filling buckets

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Dale, Debbie and John Paul delivering tomato buckets

I returned two weeks later and found a few buckets empty of life and several empty all together. When I asked around it ended up that caring for tomato plants was harder than some folks thought it would be. Well that explained the dead ones but what about the empty buckets (which had holes in the bottom for drainage so were useless for water holding responsibilities)? “John Paul’s got ‘em.”I was told so I went around to John Paul’s apartment and saw his bucket with the celebrity tomato plant healthy and happy. Then I saw the rest of them.

John Paul had taken all the tomato orphans and filled an abandoned flower bed with them. “I love growing tomatoes.” He said with a grin. And he did a great job of it too.

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The Tomato King of Town Center

John Paul grew a tomato thicket this summer and every Friday for two months he would bring a bunch of green tomatoes into the senior center at Town Center and they would have a fried green tomato party. He gave away tomatoes all summer and was a very popular fellow.

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John Paul and the tomato thicket

These are only two stories of the way Grow Appalachia meets people at their need and responds with not only food, but respect. And while sometimes there are empty buckets or weed filled beds, more often there is life…and tomatoes.