Please enjoy this blog post and pictures from Vanessa Hall, one of our Grow Appalachia participants at Cowan Creek.   I surely thank her for sharing her story and kind spirit with our group.


Being a part of the Grow Appalachia-Cowan Creek Community Center group has been one of the most empowering experiences of my adult life.  My Daddy always said that “it takes money, to make money”, and that statement rings true even today.  When you live on a fixed income, without a lot of disposable income, it makes you very cautious about gambling on techniques and technologies that you don’t have personal experience with.  Grow Appalachia has created an atmosphere of learning that, frankly I have seen too rarely. With our training sessions,  “experts”  teach us about what can be done and then, if we want to take advantage of that training, tools to bring home to our own gardens are available.  Thank you Cathy Rehmeyer for your sharing your expertise.

We, Charlie and I, would have never thought it possible to harvest and grow fresh vegetables in the dead of winter.  Even, after reading about others doing it, we would not have had the courage to invest in the materials to make that possible.  When we first joined this group, I had very little confidence in my skills and abilities.  As time has past in the last 2 years, I realize that I can do things that I only dreamed of doing as I thumbed through the pages of Mother Earth News.  After experiencing first hand the use of low tunnels on my vegetable beds this winter, I wondered if it would be possible to grow and harvest strawberries earlier in the season, and so, Charlie and I took the low cover from one of the vegetable beds and put it on our strawberries in February.

The confidence we have gained has led us to believe that, if we think it, we can do it.  Our strawberries actually started blooming in late February, before it was warm enough to remove the tunnels on the warmest days. We learned first hand, the importance of pollinators by this experience, because without the buzzing bees to pollinate these blossoms, they simply didn’t develop into fruits.  With the warmer days of March and the return of pollinators our beautiful blooms started to swell into luscious green berries!  We literally can’t stay out of the strawberry bed during the day.  We walk out there half a dozen times a day and just are mesmerized at the food we are producing.


And all of this is happening because of Grow Appalachia.  To give people the tools, training, and just plain old cheerleading of our efforts is changing our world.   The old saying, “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime” is proving the truth of that statement everyday in our community. Now that we know the value of low tunnels, when our fabric wears out, we will not hesitate to use our own disposable income to purchase it.   That is the real beauty of the Grow Appalachia experience, it removes the fear and doubt of new innovations by putting tools in our hands and teaching us how to use them.

It also serves as a learning lab for people in our community that are not in the program.  Several times a week, neighbors ask us about the low tunnels and what they are for.  So now, funny as it seems, WE are the experts in our little world.  We would have never thought it possible that we would become the people that others ask for advice on gardening, but that is the real beauty of Grow Appalachia.  Empowering everyone to become producers of local food and not just consumers of food grown far away with no real human faces attached to it. Thank you Grow-Appalachia Cowan Community Center, you have made our lives healthier, happier, and wiser!

Charlie and Vanessa Hall