New Year, New Process

Since 2012, ASD has been a partner of Grow Appalachia. Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of individuals feed themselves (and their neighbors) through the use of home, community and market gardens. Over the past 5 years we’ve had many successes and failures. We have asked for our gardeners to help us improve the program through the use of surveys and candid conversations. ASD is based in Abingdon, but serves folks in over 15 counties. We’ve had folks drive over an hour to attend our workshops and participate in the program. We’ve heard it over and over again – I wish (insert town name) had something like this!

Leveraging Community Partnership

In 2017, we welcomed two new community gardens. Madam Russell Methodist Church’s Widow’s Garden in Saltville and Sullivan County Public Library’s Children’s Garden in Blountville. This year, we are hosting workshops at these two partner sites. On February 26th, we had our first Garden Planning Workshops. In Blountville, we had over 35 adults in attendance and in Abingdon, we had 16 in attendance. On February 27th, we offered Garden Planning in Saltville with 10 in attendance. Those who traveled all the way to Abingdon last year are grateful for the opportunity to have these workshops closer to home.

Welcoming New Voices

New this year is our use of Grow Your Own graduates to teach or co-teach the 6 required workshops. At the Abingdon meeting, market gardener Neal Reid, demonstrated how he plans out his garden while 2nd year home gardener, Della McGuire, shared her colorful garden map. Tom, 2nd year home gardener, shared his soil analysis from early last spring and compared it with his fall soil analysis.


Additionally, each site has a Site Coordinator whose job is to keep the workshops running smoothly. Heather Sieber is a 2nd year GYO gardener and is running a small CSA this year. She and her partner Eli are working together to coordinate workshops in Blountville. Originally from California, Heather has learned a great deal about gardening in southwest Virginia. She and Eli hope to lease a larger plot of land to increase their CSA membership in the future.

Sunni Balta is a Virginia Highland’s Community College Horticulture Student that has worked in the local food system for several years. She has interned on small farms producing hops, vegetables, and other products. She and her partner, Joseph, will be managing the Abingdon demonstration garden. Sunni is coordinating the Abingdon workshops.

Kai Conley, formerly of Sprouting Hope, has many years of experience teaching folks to grow food. When living in Baltimore, she taught refugees how to grow food in a new climate while navigating language barriers. Most recently, she worked for Sprouting Hope coordinating their backyard garden program. We are happy to welcome Kai as the Saltville Site Coordinator where she will work with some of her old gardeners as well as many new ones!

We are excited to begin the 2018 growing season and hope that everyone reading this will feel inspired to get involved with your community’s food system. Until next time, happy growing!