#GivingTuesday was this past Tuesday, November 29, a day to celebrate the philanthropic spirit by donating time or money to nonprofits and causes that ignite passion and compel givers to do their part in making change in the communities and regions in which they live and work. This year, we decided to highlight a few stories of our site coordinators and participants that we are giving back to, through our program and the resources and education that have been delivered since 2010. We believe in educating people on how to grow food for themselves, so that they are able to provide for their families, potentially raise up the next generation of farmers and gardeners, and become a part of a more food secure Appalachian region. Read more about how our basic mission of helping as many Appalachian families grow as much of their own food as possible is making an impact in our own little corner of Appalachia.
1. “A woman approached me the other day, a GYO participant who’s been in the program off and on since the beginning. “[coordinator’s name omitted] How do you eat healthy? I have to do something different cause my doctor said if I don’t do something now, I’m going to check out of here, and since I’ve already checked out once, I’m not interested in doing it again.” What do you say to that? I took her hoe that she brought me to look at; one I gave her the first year…I found the metal file and began to sharpen the blade…I sanded the handle removing years of caked on mud…all the while thinking this would be a great workshop- how to care for tools- and thought about her question. How do you advise people on health when they’re desperate to make a change? Grow a garden, and learn to eat what comes up, when it comes up…We’ve seen a lot of misery, a lot of poor kids, a lot of unhealthy people and we’re both frustrated by the system our children, our society is in. But we also see some rays of hope around us. They’re in the garden. It comes from a child getting excited to grow kale and broccoli because ‘we had them last year and they were really good’…It comes from hearing through the grapevine that a child we’ve worked with picked and ate a carrot from the ground and excitedly told their grandparents at home ‘it was the first time I ever ate something that came from the ground’…It comes from watching a child trying a vegetable for the first time after being lightly coaxed and smiling, ‘I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I did.'”
2. “As a first year member in the Grow Appalachia program I have learned so much about gardening. For example, I had no idea that there was gardening that could be done year round. The perspective of 4 season gardening allowed me to gain knowledge about the different types of gardening for each season. I have already harvested crops such as broccoli and cauliflower this fall. I have also harvested and will continue to harvest additional crops…This continuous supply will allow me to have fresh produce throughout the winter months. This will contribute a lot to my food supply since I have already used a lot of what I preserved from the spring and summer harvest. Being able to do this makes me appreciate gardening and the knowledge I have learned even more!”
3. “I think there is a need for educating and having the produce taste good. Because if it tastes good, people will eat it. When people come out to the garden they exercise, create energy, and it brings families together to do something meaningful and fun..Anytime I get picked up and get a ride down, I get to meet someone new. I get to share good and bad experiences; it is just life and life is every day and eating is every day. It has been good for me to meet new people because I am in a new town and it has opened up lots of doors for me. I lost my mom last year and I have some struggles going on. It has been so amazing. Otherwise I would be sitting here with nothing to do with my favorite thing being gardening but I don’t have a garden.”
4. “Two and a half years ago my children and I made a difficult move…We didn’t know anyone but felt at home in the midst of the mountain views and lush vegetation. I was quickly blessed with a wonderful job…As rewarding as that has been, something was still missing. I have always wanted to provide my family healthy food I could trust, but I have been unable to afford organic foods on a consistent basis. In my mind, the only way to accomplish this would be to grow it myself…I’ve done some gardening in the past but I knew nothing about gardening in clay soil. I knew nothing of our particular pests, common weeds, or plant diseases…My first attempt at gardening was, in fact, a disaster. I wasn’t strong enough to use the tiller I rented, so my plot was only partially tilled. I planted anyway, but did nothing to prepare the soil or keep up with weeding. Surprisingly, I did get some crops, but not enough to put a dent in my food budget…And it was awful to look at. When I learned about the [site omitted] program, I seized the opportunity. And I am so glad I did…I now have a beautiful garden that produces high quality produce at a rate I can barely keep up with.”
5. “Gardening moments: When you feel excited to see lady bugs! When you have a hard time trying to start weeding, but you really enjoy it when you are doing it! You love the smell of soil. You don’t mind sweating like a man because it is for your garden. Harvesting green and wax beans brings a smile! Wax beans always make me feel rich, ever since I was a little girl for some reason I got it in my head that they were more elegant. So here I am harvesting my own. (Heart smile). When you smile the whole time remembering different garden moments with your daddy growing up!”
6. “Somehow we lost that ability to garden here in the mountains. Things became more convenient, they became habits. We didn’t consider that processed food might not be as good for us, that it might have the health implications that we know it does now. We just got comfortable with those choices…We have to re-educate folks. It is an opportunity that has to be learned. It’s hard to get back to. What I like about Grow Appalachia is that we are trying to reconnect those folks with the skills, provide opportunities and reduce barriers so folks can learn, experiment, and find out if gardening is for them.”
7. “There is no place quite like the garden. I am very thankful for the Grow Appalachia program…I was very blessed to have other participants who were willing to share their knowledge about gardening with me. I have five daughters who will benefit from this program and the knowledge that I can share with them…my grandchildren are working and planting in the garden as well as eating the wonderful vegetables that they grew. My grandchildren love their animals and getting in the garden! Thank you, Grow Appalachia!”
8. “I believe that sharing that piece of my history…is what makes Grow Appalachia so powerful…it ‘perfectly describes the eclectic tribe that is Grow Appalachia- young and old (probably about a 50 year span among those present), multi-racial and interfaith, and a breadth of educational and economic backgrounds that are rare to have in the same room.’ That has been my experience with Grow Appalachia over the last three years. The wisdom is not top down. It is circular and everyone has a piece of it, not in spite of their age, their income bracket or their education but because of it. I believe that growing food levels the playing field.”
9. “I have enjoyed the program thoroughly. It has helped my family in so many ways by teaching me and my sisters responsibility, and the meaning behind food, and to not be wasteful…I hope that I will always be able to participate with [site name omitted] for the rest of my able life. It’s an amazing organization with inspiring people and I will always love the farm and its people.”
10. “As I was led through a Grow Appalachia garden site, I was reminded of summers in the garden with my Papaw. My favorite place to be as a kid was by my Papaw’s side in the garden…At the end of the day, we’d walk back to the house hauling buckets of what we’d picked. I’d help my Mamaw make supper out of what we’d brought back with us and we’d have a table full of home-grown, handpicked food…My family was poor, but I was lucky to live where I did and to have the opportunity to garden and eat fresh food whenever I wanted. Many other low-income Appalachians and Kentuckians are not as lucky.”
If you have a Grow Appalachia story to share, please let us know! We would love to hear from you!