-Marta Pate
Step by Step, Big Ugly

I know the calendar says it’s February, but here at Big Ugly, everything says it’s spring, and we have daffodils already in bloom! It just makes your fingers itch to be out planting your early crops, but unfortunately, it’s still early enough that there is still a threat of a heavy frost for at least a couple of more weeks.

So, four of us attended the Grow Appalachia Gathering in Berea last week so that we could come back with all sorts of resources and information to share with our gardeners. The Grow Appalachia Gathering attended by Bea Sias, Tony Smoot, Kathy Smith, and Marta Pate, was exciting and packed with lots of information that we hope will be useful to our gardeners as they plan and maintain their gardens, so that they will have a bountiful harvest despite what Mother Nature decides to throw at us. We made co-operative connections that benefited all, from picking up fertilizer for another group that will be dropped off when we visit them to pick up potatoes, to sharing knowledge about resources.

Workshops attended by our group included:
• Summer Food Service Program: This was helpful as we run several Summer Nutrition programs along with a new Summer Backpack program to provide weekend food to lo-income children.
• Value Added: This opened our eyes to what exactly is valued added produce and generated ideas on how our teens might generate income through the use of pre-prepared meals at budget prices utilizing produce from the community garden along with ant eggs, honey, or chickens (once they quit laying….) that is available.
• Farm to Institution: We learned about what it takes to be effective when reaching out to schools, daycares, etc, to sell or produce, and about some of the structures that need to be in place.
• Organic Gardening: What is organic gardening? How can you be organic and still have good pest and weed control? How can you use plants to help you be a more effective organic gardener and reduce your need for herbicides and pesticides? All of this and more was covered, and pointed out how surprisingly simple it really can be to be organic yet control weeds, pests, and diseases through thoughtful gardening.
• Site Sustainability: What is meant by site sustainability? Do we need to generate a profit in order to be considered sustainable? These were just some of the information we covered.
• Regional Groups: We talked about bulk purchases, how to get the best deal from local vendor, local food policies, and getting all ages involved in gardening.


And of course, as always, we were well fed with local foods, including some super awesome croissants with a cream cheese and spiced apple topping, that was our particular favorite.