Happy Summer from the Grow Your Own program at Appalachian Sustainable Development! The abundant spring lettuce, radish, cauliflower, and broccoli of April and May have given us the last of their bounty and the green tomatoes forming on the vine are prepared to take their place on our plates. Lettuce has been tremendously generous with most of the Grow Your Own gardeners this season and beans are promising heavy yields by the sheer density of flowers on our plants.

The gardeners at Sullivan County Public Library in Blountville, Tennessee, have been one of those gardens, blessed with heaps of lettuce, radish, and the like. Megan Hopkins, Branch Manager, emailed ASD back in January regarding a posting she’d seen online. Shortly after, Michelle Morgan, program manager for Grow Your Own, visited the library to see if a garden would be possible.

Megan had envisioned a multi-use community garden for the families that live in the nearby neighborhood and as a space for students of the Story Time program to experience the excitement and joy of gardening. A mother herself, Megan sees great value in fresh and healthy food. Her son enjoyed fistfuls of strawberries from the demonstration garden at a workshop earlier in the spring. It became clear that Megan and her team at Sullivan County Public Library had a game plan for their garden and were willing to find a way to make it happen. First step was getting the project cleared with the Board of Directors, which Megan completed with grace.

Second step was to determine what kind of garden should be installed. Based on a few factors like maintenance and accessibility, the new garden to be installed was going to consist of raised beds and potted plants. Building raised beds can be a costly project for a serious garden, but it is an even greater investment for a pilot project. So, Megan talked to fellow community members, some family members, and a friends group of the library and was able to come up with wood to build the boxes, tires for potatoes, soil, and 5 gallon buckets to house tomatoes. All of this effort plus some paint and creativity transformed an otherwise unused stretch of grass between the library and the parking lot into a beautiful garden that offers a bright cheery accent to the scenery and an opportunity to anyone who passes to have a little snack along the way.

Megan shared in a recent email that they have 17 families signed up in the community garden and they cycle 20+ kids through the garden during Story Time. Radishes have been the favorite of the Story Time students. Maybe tomatoes will be the new favorite or better yet, green beans with lots of garlic?

The collaboration between Sullivan County Public Library and ASD’s Grow Your Own program has provided the extra resources needed to infuse a well planned and guided vision of a few bright citizens into the stages of fruition. Just like that, Grow Appalachia’s vision to see as many Appalachian’s growing as much of their own food as possible materializes like magic by providing the education, literature, seeds, plants, tools, and conversations required. Please enjoy the photos below of this whimsical little garden.