“I moved into Rock Haven back in the fall of 2015,” Keith, one of our Hospitality House residents, explains. “I used to be depressed, play video games and stay hidden away in my room. ” A short two years later, and he is preparing – and super excited – to go to a beekeeping workshop this coming weekend.

When the chicken coop was being constructed in early 2016, Keith walked the quarter mile from Rock Haven, an off-site facility of Hospitality House, carried a favorite tool and spent long days helping. The coop’s proximity to the main garden at Hospitality House sparked his curiosity about the four raised beds in the back yard of Rock Haven. “About ten years ago, they put in four raised beds around the back, and of course, when they put the beds in a while ago, the trees around them were very small. Now they’re very large, and there’s a lot of shade on those beds. I put some time in there trying to garden in the beds last year, and they didn’t do so well.” Despite the limited sun on those beds, he grew peas, spinach, and some garlic, which spurred his vision. He wanted to grow more and told stories of growing hot peppers with lavender, which gave the peppers a lavender flavor. “[Lauri, through Grow Appalachia] provided me with plants and then some — mulch, cow manure, and we even put in a worm bed this last year. I am really excited, and look forward to getting out and working in the garden. If it weren’t for the garden I have to work in now, I wouldn’t have anything to do; it’s given me a new sense of purpose in my life.”

“I talked to Lauri, Jordan, and Jenny about plowing and tilling up new ground in sunnier areas. Now the entire back yard is a garden, at least ten times larger than what it was.”  He has expanded from the original 4 4×8 raised beds to add 4 plots in the ground, berry plantings, worm composting, and is maintaining the landscaping to enhance Rock Haven’s appearance. 

“In April of this year we had a pruning class, which really helped me learn more about landscaping and beautification for the front of the building, which I think  when you drive by a place and think about landscaping, now it really stands out, and I want people to think that when they drive by the building that it’s really aesthetically pleasing.”

Other residents are inspired to get involved. John, a former nurseryman from Florida, gave Keith some advice and has grown a beautiful crop of tomato and pepper seedlings for his container gardens on the deck of Rock Haven (he is limited by the steps to get down to the garden in the ground).  All the residents there are exposed to the Grow Appalachia program which does much more for Hospitality House residents then providing a way to stretch the family budget or learn healthy eating habits.

“Lots of people at HH would like to see us have bees, but Rock Haven is the best place and that’s the next thing I really want to work on.” His dream is to acquire bees, and his commitment provides incentive for us to facilitate the resources for him to make this happen. His vision for keeping bees is to provide some revenue in the future, which is admirable considering he currently has no income or a car or a driver’s license. Grow Appalachia will help make this possible. Keith is excited about attending a 2 day workshop in Asheville for beginning beekeepers. He has found and is getting in touch with a Faith Mountain Farm that leases hives, allowing the caretakers to keep ½ the honey harvest. Renting hives will be the perfect next step for Keith to gain the expertise he needs to establish his own apiary and an income.