Since the beginning, the heartbeat- for lack of a better word- of Grow Appalachia is that of its participants. To date, Grow Appalachia has reached more than 4,000 unduplicated families. These families and participants are as unique and diverse as the central Appalachian region itself. We collect a lot of numerical data in the form of robust Excel reports from our partner sites. It was not too long, though, that we decided to investigate the qualitative data side of the program as well: Who, exactly, are the people being impacted by Grow Appalachia? What are their stories?

We are sharing one of those stories for this week’s newsletter.  A special thanks goes to our AmeriCorps VISTA, Alix Burke, who is spending part of her VISTA year visiting partner sites and obtaining these stories. If you would like to share your Grow Appalachia story, please email Alix at

Della & Charles

Participants at Pine Mountain Settlement School, we met Della and Charles the day before Thanksgiving, 2016. They introduced themselves as “I’m Della, Charles’ wife”, and “I’m Charles, Della’s husband.” We could tell that we were about to witness something truly beautiful. Throughout the interview, Charles often praised Della for her experience raising a family and supporting herself by gardening her whole life. Charles and Della have only been married 3, going on 4 years, so to hear him acknowledge and respect her life before he was really in it was special. Both Della and Charles gardened before joining Grow Appalachia but mentioned how the knowledge they gained from the Grow Appalachia workshops has made their new, post-retirement shared garden thrive. 

About their garden, Della said, “We’re really at the stage of our life where we can play at what like to do- what we used to have to work at- now we just enjoy playing at it.”

They also talked about wanting to get chickens next year. According to Charles, “We’ve got the jar picked out, and a place on the shelf picked out. When we get our first egg, we’re going to pickle it, we’re going to keep it, and put it up there as ‘our first egg’.” 

As the interview progressed, they finished each other’s sentences, they picked on each other playfully, told stories, and laughed a lot- together. We could hear and see the love and respect they shared for each other in their words and interactions. 

“We get along great,” Charles said, “We intend to advocate to her grandkids and other people that we know to participate in this Grow Appalachia program. They can really supplement their income with this. I think that’s kind  of what Grow Appalachia is for, helping this area by doing stuff like that, and we intend to advocate it. But for us, it’s just a lot of fun.” 

To Della, “It’s just absolute fun.”