It’s that time of year again: the weather turning cooler, leaves changing colors, schools letting out for fall break, stores busting at the seams with all things Halloween. And if you’re a gardener, whether on your own or as a Grow Appalachia site coordinator, it’s also that time of year to start thinking about next year. Proposals are being reviewed and plans are already well underway for HQ, but we wanted to take some time to give some insight on how to think through planning for next year:

  1. What were the significant challenges or obstacles from the year? –> By addressing what exactly didn’t go right this year, you are aware of those challenges and you’re then able to plan and, if necessary, discuss with your team how you can work to reduce or eliminate those challenges for next year. However, it’s also helpful to keep in mind that there are some challenges that, try as you must, you just can’t control. Like weather.
  2. What were some successes from the year? –> Think of a performance review at your job: There are many things that you are doing well at your job, but your supervisor lets you know of something that you can improve on, and what do you end up fixating on? That one thing! While it’s certainly important, as described above, to refine and work through challenges, it’s also important to celebrate successes as well! No success is too grand or too small!
  3. Are you thinking about site-generated revenue? –> For GA folks, this is for you: are you thinking of ways to put additional income back into your Grow Appalachia site? Although market gardening is still something HQ is emphasizing, we at HQ have been encouraging our sites to diversify revenue sources for the past few years. One of the most successful endeavors to accomplish this is adding a value-added component. Value-added products can include jam, salsa, hot sauce, sauerkraut, eggs, honey…oh, you get the idea! If you need some inspiration brainstorming some value-added products that you can try, check out a few of our value-added sites: Scott Christian Care Center, The David School, and Greenhouse 17. If you don’t have the processing space or facilities to create food-related value-added products, consider non-food items, such as calendars, compost, or having a plant sale. Be creative! Any way you can put revenue back into your program is a worthwhile investment.
  4. Taking site-generated revenue one step further, are you thinking about site sustainability? –> Also for GA folks: sustainability is asking yourself how you will keep your Grow Appalachia program going once Grow Appalachia funding is no longer available. The most ideal approach is again, thinking about site-generated revenue (see above). It’s also beneficial to spend some time researching and applying for additional grants from private or public sources.  Look for those that support general operating costs, children’s programs, food-related programs, etc. Lastly, it’s important to create a solid leadership succession plan for your site; that is, identifying a strong successor to continue your work in the event of your stepping down, and assuring he or she has all of the proper documentation and training necessary to carry out the program effectively and responsibly.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help -> You don’t know what you don’t know! But chances are there is someone who does. Reach out to your local Extension agents, your favorite farmers market vendor, or your friendly Grow Appalachia cohort here. Whatever information you obtain will only seek to benefit you in the long run, so remember that the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.

If you have any questions about ANYTHING just covered, or about anything else, please let one of us at HQ know. We are more than happy to help you think through this process.

Featured image courtesy of Rural Resources.

Until next time, happy planning! Get outside and do something!