Greetings from St. Vincent Mission! We’ve welcomed the April showers and they have not dampened the spirits of our participants. Speaking of our participants, we have 38 families that are ready and eager to begin their gardens.

As of this writing, we are planning our next meeting this Friday.  We’ll talk about organic gardening with special guest Kathy Curtis from Community Farm Alliance.  Our participants have plenty of questions, but are welcoming the organic method of farming.

Another big project here at St. Vincent Mission is our work with the Big Sandy Community and Technical College Community Garden.  The garden produces more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce annually and is distributed to the Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry at the St. James Episcopal Church.  We placed a cover crop on the 28 beds and have tilled and fertilized the dirt.  They’re ready to begin their growing season and expand their efforts to the Floyd County Farmer’s Market to become self-sustaining.

On Saturday, we will be participating in an Earth Day celebration at the college.  We’ll be promoting sustainable farming and giving tours of the community garden.  We will also be doing crafts for the kids, including a bird feeder made of a sugar cone, peanut butter and bird seed.  The event will feature participation posters and presentations on recycling batteries, identifying vegetables and other fun events.

Through our communication with our participants, we have learned a thing or two.  That’s what it is all about: learning from every angle possible.  Two of our participants have specifically asked for Plum Granny, also known as Queen Anne Melons.  I admit, we had to google it to find out more information.  It is an ornamental fruit (small) that has deep orange stripes.  They are known more for their aroma than they are to eat (according to Google).  One of our participants described it as a weak Honeydew flavor.  Regardless, I am eager to see how the melons do and can’t wait to smell and try one.

Grow Appalachia has promoted a resurgence of using the earth for its intended purpose.  Our meetings are so unique, because our participants come from all walks of life but share one commonality – they want to grow a healthier and brighter future for their families.  Grow Appalachia and the work of St. Vincent Mission are providing the tools and insights and our participants are the boots on the grounds working towards a transformation in eastern Kentucky.  It’s exciting and rewarding.

So, for now, it’s time to continue to turn the dirt, plant seeds and nurture them towards a rewarding harvest.  As we spend time in our participant’s gardens, we can see, first hand, the excitement and eagerness to learn and grow, alongside the seeds we plant.  This is just the beginning and we cannot wait for an overwhelming harvest and to share the stories of our participants in the weeks and months to come.

Here are some photos of the Big Sandy Community and Technical College Community Garden.  Here is C.W. Vanhoose, a professor of electrical technology and his daughter, Heidi, working in the garden and dressing the three sisters’ scarecrows.  Heidi is also shown with some seeds and helping us hoe one of the gardens.  You’ll see more of C.W., Heidi and others volunteering in the community garden in the months to come.

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