Hello from Valerie at Cowan Creek. Folks have been busy here getting a head start on crops.  The Whitesburg/Letcher County Farmers Market is gearing up and folks are planting more than ever to be ready for the June 4th opening.  Growers are moving towards larger gardens and had significant support from Letcher County Conservation with the purchase of a raised bed plastic mulch layer.  Shane Lucas is in the pictures preparing his beds and will be doing the same for other participants wishing to scale up.   We expect to be able to help eight to ten growers experiment w/the raised beds and irrigation systems.   Thanks again to Connie Sturgill and board members at Letcher County Conservation for making the investment in beginning farmers here. Thanks to Martin Richards, CFA for being there for the ask also.

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A few Grow Appalachia participants who are selling at the Farmers Market are also seeking support from Kentucky State University by applying for the Small Scale Farmer grant.  Special thanks to Joni Nelson, KSU for spending the afternoon with us in Letcher County.  Had a great trip driving thru Kingdom Come to visit a small farm.  Participants benefited from the explanation of the program and several were able to sumbit proposals.  Joni also had the opportunity to join Community Farm Alliances’s Breaking Beans on WMMT.   If your not sure what Kentucky State University offers to new farmers click on the link below and listen to the show to hear Joni explain the help that is out there.


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We also had a great soil health workshop from Natural Resources Conservation Services.  Thanks to Connie Sturgill for making it happen and thanks to our presenters: Jimmy Lyons, Area Resource Conservationist, Bob Blanton Natural Resources Manager and Chris Slone Conservation Planner.  During this session we also distributed supplies for proper trellising. We have been a little weak in this are over the years, so it got good attention this year.  Thanks to Wayne Riley in Laurel County for procuring t-posts at a reasonable price and delivering our fertilizer. We were able to sell our t-posts to participants at 50% off and provide hortanova for trellis.  Those who used the trellis last year were very pleased and planning to use this year.  We also distributed ‘cash for crops’ at this gathering, allowing growers to purchase two plant flats from locally grown transplants at the Plant Place.  This gathering had close to 70 Grow Appalachia participants.  Happy to see young folks showing up.

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Grow Appalachia participant, Vanessa Hall shared this comment on Facebook after the Healthy Soil workshop.

“I learned so much at the meeting last night. I had read about no til farming about 20 years ago in Mother Earth News, but misunderstood the process. I thought you would never have a tractor or any other heavy farm equipment on the land at all. Now, if someone asked me to sum it up, instead of calling it no til, I would call it a green mulching farming system. Any body else have any insight on this?”

We were lucky on Easter weekend to have Common Wealth Seed Growers talk to our group about seed transplants and a variety of best practices. Common Wealth Seed Growers offers open-pollinated, organic, farm direct, regionally adapted vegetable seeds grown in Virginia. Edmond and Sapphyre shared what they are doing to grow seeds more resistant to mold and mildew.  It was a learning experience for all.  One participant shared, “she made me think outside the box and think about things differently.”  After the workshop, participants got a few packs of their seeds and transplant supplies.  We had an Seed hunt after the workshop. These are good folks to check out if looking to try new seeds.  Just good people too.

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In April, we also made our annual visit to the Appalachian Seed Swap in Pikeville.  Folks with the Pikeville Farmers Market do an amazing job at the Seed Swap.  Participants who attended could attend workshops and were able to purchase heirloom seeds. Always good to have an opportunity to appreciate Bill Best.

So…..we are doing all we can to have a large harvest and wishing each of you a great start also.  Best to all in your efforts to grow.