Happy Friday Grow Appalachians, and a hearty hello to the month of September! Man, oh man, where did the month of August go? Somebody…anybody?

A few times a year, we break the traditional once-weekly writings of Grow Appalachia goings-on and gardening know-how to spotlight one of our homestead high tunnel recipients and/or partner sites. This week, we’re taking a look at a pair of Quonsets that were built on university property, all the while providing a valuable learning opportunity for a small class of agriculture students.

Last fall, our technical director/technical extraordinaire Mark Walden was contacted by an Agriculture professor at Eastern Kentucky University; specifically, an agriculture professor who taught in the Fruit and Vegetable Production program offered at the university (How cool is that?) He approached Grow Appalachia with a plan: 3 consecutive weeks in September during class time. 2 tunnels: one tunnel would be built, and supplies left behind for the other to be built…by his class! (Again, how cool is that?) Needless to say, we agreed!


Site for the future tunnel!

Chris, Mark and I spent 3 consecutive weeks in September, braving ridiculous heat/humidity and a thunderstorm (during which I had to fashion a plastic bag over the camera) and were met with a group of about 10 students that were currently enrolled in the Fruit and Vegetable Production program. The students arrived each week on time, ready to work with great attitudes, a great work ethic, all of them eager to share how they were pursuing individual agriculture-related or farming-related career goals. It was encouraging to see that among both groups of students: traditional college students and non-traditional students (those that were married or with families, older than 25, etc).  Among the tunnel building as one of the classes’ projects, a few of the students were also involved in a recently-launched entrepreneurial endeavor: The EKU Red Barn Garden. I’m sure you can guess from the above picture where it got its name. The Red Barn Garden is a student-run mini Farmers Market on EKU’s campus that operates during the week for a couple of hours. The produce sold at the market is grown at the garden and harvested and prepared by the students. Currently the market is open on Thursdays from 10am-1pm at Irvine McDowell Park in downtown Richmond. Additionally, the Red Barn Garden has started a “Farm to Office” delivery program for EKU staff and faculty. Previously, they sold on EKU’s campus from 3-5pm- which, if you’re familiar with Richmond, was right off the Bypass that runs through town and campus.

It was really enriching for me to not only learn about peers interested and fully invested in agriculture-related professions, but to also hear their stories in general. Many of the students had young children or small farms at home and they wanted to be as immersed in as many industries as possible, just to get an idea as to what was out there. Now, I drive down the Bypass on a regular basis, having relocated from Berea to Richmond a year ago, and it’s a wonderful feeling to see the high tunnels from the Bypass, remembering not only our hand in the project, but the hands of those working towards a life in the field of agriculture and farming.

There’s a sizable gallery below, so you can see the process of the build over the three week period. Be sure to check out this amazing program if you ever find yourself passing through Richmond or Eastern Kentucky University.

And finally, Grow Appalachia launched the release of this project back in mid-July, but since this is a high tunnel spotlight, we just couldn’t resist sharing it again! Our high tunnel instructional video is now online and ready to view! We spent many long months- almost a year, to be exact- filming and editing this project and we are eager to see its impact spread deep and wide in the region…and beyond! Our goal is that it will not only be an introductory tool to our homestead high tunnels, but also that any interested producers or growers are able to view the construction process in its entirety at their own pace, able to refer back to it as many times as needed. We’ve very proud of this video. Please share it!

Until next time, I hope you all have a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable Labor Day weekend!




The finished product!

For more information about the EKU Red Barn Garden, check out their Facebook page.

For more information about the EKU Fruit and Vegetable Production program, view the Agriculture Department’s website.