Each season, the last question on the Community Garden Contract is, “what do you hope to learn this year by working in a garden?” and honestly, I hadn’t taken the time to read those responses until now. With an early start on the season, it feels good to be able to take the time to read what these young people have written.

Last year, through a USDA Farm to School grant, ASD was able to provide raised beds for the TechGYRLS, which is a girls only after school program at Bristol, VA’s YWCA. The girls decided to make their garden available to the community to provide fresh produce to those who are passing by on foot.

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Some of the girls that will be gardening this season have one season under their belt, so they’ve had exposure to growing.  This exposure has led a little girl to aspire to be a farmer. Over last season, she was responsible for digging holes for blueberry bushes and she never tired out when digging the hard dry soil.

When it was time to make salsa, she could be trusted to chop and dice without much direction or supervision. Her kindness guides her behavior in the garden and she has the ability to teach what she’s learned. Special attention will be paid to connect this gal with some local women farmers.


The center photo is a little hard to read, but the second line reads, “I love science so I’d love to know about photosynthesis”. This child who doesn’t really go outside wants to learn the science of gardening. These young women want to learn about flowers, food, photosynthesis, insects, and cooking.

Grow Appalachia allows ASD to live up to these expectations and for that we are thankful. When the girls see their request in a lesson or when I visit their site, they will know that they were heard. That’s a pretty powerful feeling for anyone, but especially an 11 year old girl.

There are several other community gardens in our program that focus around after-school programming and youth. Everything that is produced is eaten,  whether it be standing in the garden, cooked on-site, or sent home for later use. So far, we have 118 children under the age of 15 enrolled in the community gardens of Grow Your Own. We’ll have final numbers in April.

Our 32 home gardeners range from an 86 year old grandmother to a 4 month old baby boy. One of our market gardeners is a 9 year old with a dream and an encouraging mother. The diversity is incredible and welcomed, much like the diversity we strive to develop in our seed selections.

What I hope to learn this year by working in the garden is the stories of these people, the stories of their families, where they are going and how they are getting there. More on that soon.

What do you hope to learn from your garden this year?