-Daphne Good, Big Ugly Grow Appalachia
As I have mentioned before, I have been gardening a very long time; actually since I was a small child when I asked my dad if I could have “my own” garden. Because of my long association with dirt, I am still amazed at how disconnected people are from the concept of planting, tending, harvesting, preparing and eating what we have grown as a way of life. Some of our young people at Big Ugly are happy with planting and tending the little garden patches. But the idea of digging up a potato from the dirt (especially if the dirt was enhanced with dried chicken manure), taking the potato to the kitchen, then washing, cooking and eating that potato is not only foreign, but also a bit repulsive.
So this year we planted potatoes at the Big Ugly Community Center. Before Thanksgiving the teens harvested those potatoes and put them in flats in the greenhouse. After spraying the potatoes with water to knock off the excess dirt, we let the potatoes dry in the daytime heat of the greenhouse. We covered the potatoes loosely and stashed the flats under the greenhouse benches.
For the last 13 years there has been a Big Ugly Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Center. It is always on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and is a very well attended event. This year’s was the best ever. The potatoes from the garden were taken out of the greenhouse and moved to the kitchen. There they became mashed potatoes and potato salad that was enjoyed by the whole community. I am personally grateful that our people, especially the teens and children, began to re-discover the facts of food, soil, hard work and nutrition.
In addition to the home-grown potatoes, there was zucchini bread made with zucchini from our gardens. Butternut squash was brought to barter for other vegetables.
Students from Berea College were also part of the Thanksgiving Celebration. They demonstrated wood work, weaving, ceramics, broom making, and weaving sea grass fiber to make the bottoms of foot stools and chairs. There were so many hands-on activities. No one, not even the children, got bored and left right after eating. We all stayed, tried the food that we had grown, tried the Appalachian Heritage crafts, and enjoyed a sense of community.
(NOTE from me: If you read the August, September, October, and November 2014 National Geographic magazines, you will find a four-part series on food and food security. With the extended drought in California and global climate change looming on the horizon, food security issues will become more important for us who have become complacent about the availability of easy-access food, particularly fresh produce. Our learning that we can produce healthy, tasty, local produce will surely transition from a fun hobby to a life necessity.)