The High Rocks Grow Appalachia partner site builds a special relationship between teenage girls in Appalachia and their food. High Rocks holds two camps in the summer. The girls eat fresh local food, help in the Grow Appalachia garden, and learn about food systems.
The center of the High Rocks campground holds the garden. When standing in the picnic shelter, where we eat meals as a giant family, you will see the rows of yummy food growing in the garden. The dinner bell rings and girls come from the screen-house classrooms, the horse riding arena, and the woods. They sit down together with camp staff, for a total of around 50 people at each meal. For each meal, Holly Bradley, the AmeriCorps volunteer with Farm to Schools here in Pocahontas County, West Virginia and volunteer executive chef at High Rocks, puts her whole heart into every meal and introduces the food with enthusiasm. More than half of the food that was served at Camp New Beginnings this year was sourced from local growers. Some of the growers were Grow Appalachia participants. The campers emptied the salad bar every night and tried new dishes each day. Some girls were pleasantly surprised to realize that not all grilled cheese sandwiches are created equally, and the ones made with locally baked bread were “the best grilled cheeses ever”.
After dinner the girls help in the Grow Appalachia garden for both camps. Some girls share their knowledge of gardening that they have gained from generations of gardening within their families, some girls ask questions, and some girls giggle and graze with boundless enthusiasm over snap peas and tomatoes. The girls weed beds and work together to stake tomatoes. Some push the limits with their fear of insects and snakes. The girls’ relationship with food becomes more intimate through eating local food, eating meals next to the garden, and spending hands-on time in the garden. Plucking a tomato and popping it into your mouth or handing it to a special new friend is as close as you can get to your food.
In the camp beginning next week, Camp Steele, there will be a special class that the campers can take called Food Revolution. Each class during Camp Steele is designed to be “college level curriculum”, so the class will be in-depth. Leah Turgeon, an Americorps volunteer, adamant plant lover, Grow Appalachia participant, and the Food Revolution teacher, p lans to inspire the girls by introducing them to the challenges within the current food system. But the class will not dwell on the problems that we face the whole time, instead in the second week Leah will focus on empowering the girls by providing them with skills to source local food and wild Appalachian edibles. The presence of Grow Appalachia in our community will be a focus. The class will learn about local food programs including Grow Appalachia and they will take a day to help in a Grow Appalachia participant’s garden.
Grow Appalachia is woven into all aspects of the camp here at High Rocks from meals to classes. Having the program site at High Rocks encourages staff, girls, and alumnae to become participants and provides opportunities for alumnae (like me) to start their career in the local food movement. There truly is a special connection between Grow Appalachia and High Rocks.