My name is Andrew Sky Hale, and it is my great pleasure to introduce myself as the new Inch-by-Inch Project Manager and Grow Appalachia Site Coordinator at The David School. Like the school itself, I come from the hills of Floyd County, Kentucky, and was raised only miles north in Van Lear. I graduated this past May with a Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from Morehead State University; I like to consider my diploma a love letter to food, my greatest passion and hope for a sustainable future of the region I call home. But there will be more time and better places to talk about myself.
The only proper way to begin this first blog entry in earnest is by thanking the students, staff, and volunteers who have kept the garden in such fantastic shape. It underscores the fact that the Inch-by-Inch Project is nothing if not the manifest reality of the students’ relentless passion, indomitable drive, and vision for building – growing, more fittingly – the future they want to see, the kind with fruits we can see, feel, taste.
Yesterday was the end of my third day of class, and in that time, I have already seen in the students (both those I am fortunate enough to have in my agriculture classes, and others eager to volunteer their own time to the garden) a passion for the growing of food to rival – and frankly, exceed – anything I saw in my fellow agriculture students in my time at university.
“People don’t think about what they eat, but they should,” said Daniel (henceforth to be known as Dragonfruit Dan, as he christened himself in our introductory name game). Daniel – who has been involved with the Inch-by-Inch Project in the past year, working the fields and the farmers’ market sales – told me he wants to be a farmer himself. I made the same decision when I was 13, but as the supposed impracticality of that idea was impressed on me by teachers and peers in public school, it fell by the wayside until just a few years ago. I would have been lucky to have the resolution these students have.
In any case, I can say with certainty that there are great and exciting times on the horizon for the Inch-by-Inch Project and The David School as a whole. The students have shown stirring enthusiasm for the idea of tapping maple trees for syrup production, as I was did during my internship on Forgotten Foods Farm LLC (I can’t resist a shout-out to this fledgling farm and CSA in Carter County, run by a brilliant and passionate couple whom I have great affection for, who left grad school halfway across the country to return to Appalachia to immerse their young family in sustainable agriculture). Also in the works is a “Three Sisters” style cornfield to demonstrate permaculture techniques over the next summer. In the more immediate future, we are hoping to attend Haunted Harvest in Hazard (there’s some alliteration for you!), as well as promoting our TDS-brand hot sauce to local marketplaces in central and eastern Kentucky.
Like the vibrant, sundry colors and ever-unpredictable transience of hot and cold of a Kentucky fall, this past little while has been a frenetic time for myself and the school, full of transformation but also a reminder of things that never truly change.