Michelle here, reporting from ASD’s Grow Your Own program. Let me just say, whew, what a spring! At times I thought I might lose it, but luckily I didn’t. I found it instead. I found some peace that I can share. I wanted to highlight some of the incredible gardens that we support using Grow Appalachia funds, sweat equity, and incredible volunteer support:

First up, Girls Incorporated of Bristol, VA – We lost private funding for me to be on site for them during the growing months, but Ms. Deeanna stepped up and used her skills and handy dandy notebook to plant the raised bed garden. Furthermore, she took what she’s learned working at Girls Inc. as a staff teacher and started her own garden at home! Just the other day, she sent me these photos of what the girls made with their spinach and a beautiful lettuce salad.

I believe the spring was so difficult because I didn’t have the support of our Abingdon High School students like we have in the past due to weather, scheduling conflicts, and the need for them to have separate gardening footwear. We were able to provide some students with garden shoes in order to allow them to be there. I am hoping that I’ll have their smiles and help this fall. However, the few days that we were able to spend together resulted in a great deal of work being accomplished. They harvested over 20 pounds of lettuce for the food pantry, planted flats of brassicas, and bunches of onions. Our strong boys also flipped the compost pile in under 2 hours, which I believe is a record.

Finally, our home gardeners have been steadfast and kind despite many upsets in weather – primarily the soil being too wet to work. I’ve seldom been alone when preparing for workshops as there are always helping hands awaiting my command. Funny how that works? Just ask! We’ve had many set backs to our timelines even for our own demonstration garden which still has not been planted in summer crops other than potatoes and tomatoes – but we’ll get there and I bet some of our home, community, and market gardeners will show up just in time.

Harvest records are beginning to trickle in as well and it looks like folks are eating well and so are there neighbors, co-workers, church families, and more. That is the beauty of Grow Appalachia. Plant it, feed a family, that family feeds a friend, and it continues. I’ve met great people this season and I’m so grateful to be able to do this work that makes my heart happy and gives me peace. Happy gardening y’all!