Can you hear that? It’s the sound of melting snow dripping off the new greenhouse behind the County Extension Office, headquarters for the 2015 Grow Appalachia Program in Wolfe County. I’m here as a support volunteer for the Agriculture Chair, Daniel Wilson, of the S.O.A.R. (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) Initiative in 2015. I’ll also be coordinating this first year of the Grow Appalachia program sponsored by the Wolfe County Extension located in Campton, Kentucky.
We had no trouble filling our 10 spaces by late January after some referrals from the schools, reaching out to our seniors, and an article in the local newspaper. We even took on one more single parent family because we just couldn’t say no. I tallied up our roster and we have 19 adults and 17 children distributed through those 11 households.
Getting a new program off the ground is full of surprises and details and lots of learning curves not to mention the curves Mother Nature throws at you. Our first meeting was scheduled for Feb. 26th but with another round of snow possible and very low nighttime temperatures, we re-scheduled for this coming Monday, March 2nd. If everyone is able to make it and brings their children, well, it could be a very exuberant orientation and garden planning meeting.
Although I’ve been gardening or farming for several decades and teaching gardening for a number of years, this is my first time in Kentucky, so I’m looking to the locals, my supervisor at the Extension, all the great resources on hand from the University of Kentucky, and reflecting on the creativity, wisdom and humor that was shared at the Grow Appalachia training in early February.
My mother always told me that you can’t be a gardener without a sense of humor and these last few weeks of winter and bitter cold have certainly tested that part of me. Looking at the snow still piled up around our greenhouse, I’m grateful for the few days of sunshine keeping it comfortable enough inside for our amazing local volunteers to put together the transplant and potting benches. Next week: a worm compost system is going in!
I’m already dreaming ahead to our Grow Appalachia participants crowded around seedling trays, talking, sharing, laughing. For me, GA is about creating a community among these gardening families just as much as it is to assist them to become more confident growing their own food or developing some marketing skills.
With the cut ends from bok choi, celery, fennel, romaine lettuce, beets and cabbage, and the sprouting of some green onions, garlic and ginger root that were withering in my crisper, I can eat a variety of fresh tidbits in my salads and stir fry during the cold months. After a few days in shallow water, the cut ends begin to put on some roots. Almost at the same time, tiny leaves will begin to push up from the core. I put them under a grow light to get them going. With enough roots on the bottom and new leaf structures on the top, they are ready to be transplanted into more permanent homes of rich potting soil. Seeing those tiny green leaves shoot up around the cabbage core or the tip of the onions pushing through the soil is just enough like planting seeds outside that I feel I can make it through till spring. Try it! This is a great inexpensive cold-weather project for your gardeners while we look forward to our first frost-free and snow-free dates. Bonus: when the veggies seem to be all used up, after several weeks on your sunny windowsill, plop them into the compost. 100% recycled!
Don’t Throw It, Grow It! By Deborah Peterson & Millicent Selsam
(Storey Publishing, 2008)