–Michael Tierney
Big Ugly Community Center

One of my favorite parts of Grow Appalachia is creating a variety of entry points for families to return to gardening. Because of the surplus of plants we have each year from the Big Ugly Community Center we always have a few extra to encourage people who might not quite be ready to be full members.

This year we are working with a mini grant from the 2016 Try This conference to encourage families with very young children to grow and prepare healthy food. Earlier this spring I provided a garden planning workshop with moms, dads and grandmas to encourage them to dip their toes in the rows this summer and to consider being full garden partners next year.

Two of the sixteen families that signed up currently garden. All of these young parents remember helping out in their grandparents garden. None of them grew up with their own parents having gardens.

When I first moved to Big Ugly Creek (30 years ago this October) the winding road was lined with gardens which have steady declined until our Grow App venture started. This period coincided with 1990s politicians changing “welfare as we know it” as well as what I call the Wal-Mart-icization of the economy. For a variety of reasons there was one parent or family member at home much of the time who could tend a garden. Since the late 90s, most of the kids in our after school program have both parents juggling as many part time jobs as they can. I was also at a family advocacy meeting today where a speaker shared that 40 years ago the average West Virginia child has 17 extended family members in the near vicinity. Today the number is four.

But I take great hope with these parents of toddlers and infants ready to take the garden plunge. This year we’ll get them cherry tomato, full sized tomato, celery and pepper plants at the annual Community Baby Shower and when they come to our Grow Appalachia Healthy Cooking workshops in June they will get a food processor (and I get to tell once again that we never bought baby food for either of our children who are now aged 23 and 27.)

And we hope the seed takes hold and that many of them will sign on for the full Grow Appalachia member in 2018.

[a photo of the May 20 baby shower will be added to this blog this weekend!]