Michael Tierney
Step by Step- Big Ugly

Grow Appalachia was front and center at the third annual Try This conference in West Virginia. We were chosen for a “shout out” spot of highlighted best practices the first day of the program. Many Grow App sites were presenters in workshops including two of us that spoke about “weird grants”—how a little investment can grow into major projects in our communities.

And our Grow App partners came together with residents from other counties to explore several mini grant projects.

Four Grow Appalachia sites (Lincoln, Logan, Williamson and Linwood Day Care Center) have committed to helping develop Grow Appalachia in the Central West Virginia counties designated as “distressed” by the Appalachian Regional Commission. We are going to mentor groups in Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Roane, Webster, Wirt that will hold orientation workshops this fall and pilot with up to five families per county in the 2017 growing season. The WV Development Office has made a particular pledge to help us get this off the ground.

Over a dozen partners are coming together to expand healthy food and gardening options with families with young children in Lincoln and Logan County. Step by Step has hosted a Community Baby Shower with our local Head Start in Harts for years and we always give out some garden plants. Grow Appalachia Logan also tables at the Pre K Academy in Logan that draws over 450 parents and grandparents of the 360 pre K and Head Start students in Logan County.

Logan Grow Appalachia Coordinator Bea Sias with veteran gardeners we hope to link with families with young children.

Logan Grow Appalachia Coordinator Bea Sias with veteran gardeners we hope to link with families with young children.

This coming year we are going to get serious about growing new gardeners among this population. We have proposed linking ten families with infants through Pre K students with veteran Grow App gardeners. The original focus will be on making healthy food for babies and young children with each pairing receiving a food processor for their commitment to the program from initial food preparation and preservation workshops this summer and fall through going through the full six required workshops in the 2017 growing season.

So far we have local health departments that will help us recruit families through WIC, Head Start in both counties, home visiting programs, the Partners in Prevention teams supported by Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia in both counties, as well as several county extension agents on board. We are excited about helping families start preparing (and raising) healthy food from the beginning.

If you have great healthy baby food recipes or have any other tips for helping families with infants and toddlers become gardeners, please let us know.