Hello Grow Appalachia Community,

Today I joined the Grow Appalachia Team as an intern at High Rocks, so I’d like to introduce myself and explain why I’m serving with Grow Appalachia. According to my parents, I was plucked from the cabbage patch. I spent my childhood with a big garden. I just graduated from West Virginia University with a B.S. in Soil Science. This internship marks an important step in my relationship with soil. I have studied soil on paper extensively, but I need to get my hands dirty. I am serving as an AmeriCorps with Grow Appalachia because I want to make a difference in our community, our environment, and our relationship with soil and food.

I am a West Virginian. These mountains hold my heart. I love both the pleasures and the hardships that the mountains ensue. Though the mountains isolate the mountain people, they also bring us together. The sense of community and dependence on neighbors is one of my favorite things about Appalachia. Grow Appalachia is helping to build more of these communities around food, solving both the inconveniences of a grocery store that is an hour away and the health problems that plague West Virginia.


I’ll admit it. I’m a scientist. Specifically, I’m an environmental scientist. I’ve spent years looking for the answer to the great environmental conundrum. I am convinced that we know enough about the environment around us to know that our systems are flawed at a very basic level. The environmental effect of the large-scale international food production system is apparent. We know about the carbon footprint of our lettuce, we know about the drought in California, and we know that fertilizers should not get into the streams. We also know that people need to eat. The fundamental problem is not in some scientific calculation, but instead it is in our attitude towards food. The system currently is distant, lacking connection to the people who it serves. We need to bring it home. Building a community around food production is the answer. Programs like Grow Appalachia are the answer.

I am a soil advocate. Almost all of the world’s food comes from soil. In our culture, soil is an underappreciated cornerstone of life. Soil conservation and restoration are essential focuses in natural resource management in order to preserve a resource that silently does so much for us. The first step toward preservation is appreciation. Grow Appalachia is bringing people closer to their soil.

I’m a foodie. I’m a sucker for beets. I have dreams about tomato season. Grow Appalachia is strengthening the relationship between people and their food, and that’s just wonderful!

IMG_0862I am so excited to see a program like Grow Appalachia happening in our mountains and our world that I just had to be a part of it. I am excited to get to know my neighbors; to teach them and to learn from them; to directly reduce the demand for large-scale food production, and to learn more about the relationship between our soil, our food, and ourselves.


See ya in the garden!
Ellie Bell