Hello there. My name is Kai Conley and I am excited to introduce myself as the new Coordinator of Sprouting Hope. Back in 2014 when I decided to leave my home in Baltimore, Maryland to work on farms in the south, it came out of a personal desire to connect with my familial roots, as well as to learn about sustainable living and organic food production on small scale intensive farms. Since then I’ve remained committed to learning and working in agriculture.
I have had the great pleasure of Apprenticing with the Harvest Table Farm in Meadowview, coordinating the New Roots program with the International Rescue Committee, and interning with Taproot Farm; a permaculture homestead in West Virginia. Through each of these experiences I’ve learned the importance of knowing how to grow your own real food and gained a greater mission to feed my community. There are so many among our Appalachian community who do not have the means or access to real and nutritious foods such as the fruits and vegetables we grow at Sprouting Hope. In this new role I hope to work alongside community volunteers and Homegrown families to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables growing and enjoyed in our region.
My father’s family hails from Southwest Virginia since coming to America from Ireland. They made a life here by homesteading in the rich Appalachian landscape. As time went on, the children grew up with an eye outward to the larger state. My father left the mountains after meeting my mother, a flatlander from Delaware’s Sussex County and daughter of a farmer herself, and they moved to Richmond, Virginia for work and to raise our family. As I grew up it never went unsaid by my father or my mother that we came from the mountains and farm land across the Eastern Shore and beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia. They understand the importance of growing and raising real food and encourage me in my direction. My mother has often said she wishes she had been able to continue farming her father’s land, but women in her family were not encouraged to go into farming. It is only fitting now that I have become a farmer I have made my home Appalachia, turning the same soil as those before me.
Now is the time for us growers to be getting excited about the bounty of summer, and planning for our fall crops. Our growing season in Southwest Virginia is far from over. Together I hope we can preserve our harvests and add more colorful jars full of your hard work to your larders. There is truly nothing better than cracking open that jar of brilliant red tomato sauce to spoon over pasta in the frozen winter months.