After an early season of floods and heavy rains we have had a surprisingly bountiful harvest in southern West Virginia. While our hearts went out to the West Virginians whose lives were ravaged by one of the worst floods in recent memory, the immediate toll on our Lincoln and Logan county gardeners was actually less devastating than last year. But we still had a rough spring of persistent rains that kept many from putting their gardens in until very late and power outages throughout the summer that disrupted our gardeners’ lives.
But by August we had near record harvests. Our Logan gardeners are on track to bring in twice the amount of vegetables that they did last year—already 31,000 pounds as of the most recent Grow Appalachia report. And on Big Ugly Creek we have had number of “best ever” season reports for a wide variety of vegetables. Above you can see impressive sweet potatoes that were grown from slips cultivated in our greenhouse from a forgotten and sprouted organic sweet potato.
Another gardener has what she calls the “never ending season” of summer squash—over a bushel from only four plants.
And tomatoes: Cherokee purple, black cherries, rainbow, beefsteak have all had record years sweet as could be with people making a run on bacon over a two month period for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.
The winter squash pictured above are part of at least 75 pounds coming from eight plants. Cucumbers were also at record production over a particularly long period. And many gardeners had their best year yet with half runner green beans.
It has also been a year of harvesting the generous spirit of West Virginians and their enthusiasm for Grow Appalachia. As mentioned before we received a Try This mini grant to encourage the development of the Grow Appalachia model in the central West Virginia distressed counties. (Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Roane, Webster and Wirt). The West Virginia Development Office is encouraging us to apply for technical assistance money for these counties for workshops that can be the building blocks of a new Grow Appalachia site.
Since that award we have had extension agents eager to provide models for healthy cooking, including one for “cream of whatever” from across the state. Schools are ready to engage their students. Health departments and Partners in Prevention child abuse prevention groups, and home visiting agencies will refer families with young children. And Try This co-founder Kate Long is touting Grow Appalachia as the best model to encourage home gardeners across the state.
Our planning in central West Virginia received a shot in the arm recently with a visit by partners to Berea Gardens in Calhoun County where Bob and Lynnita Gregory and their daughter Jordyn have dedicated themselves “to promoting the principles of health, diet and agriculture as given to us in the Bible and the book of nature.” Our existing WV Grow Appalachia sites have also pledged seeds, plants, expertise and TLC to mentor the new site.
West Virginia is first in the nation among places where people know their neighbors. Of course people who garden have an expansive notion of neighbor, and we are eagerly looking forward to 2017 and helping new gardeners take the plunge.