2019-Marcelle St. Germain

Grow App, Big Ugly

Step by Step

As we entered a region we had never seen before, our group of volunteer college students did not know what to expect from the Grow Appalachia program, or even West Virginia as a whole. The area can seem very foreign, even to those who live only a few hours away. However, what we found was hospitality and understanding for newcomers and neighbors alike. The site directors at the Big Ugly Community Center were accommodating and understanding, showing us what we could do to help and demonstrating its importance within the community. None of us had ever been to the region before, but Grow Appalachia gave us a feeling of familiarity and closeness with the work we put in.

Throughout the week our group aided various tasks to help Big Ugly Community Center’s gardening program. A few of our members portioned out seeds for people within the community to begin growing their own crops for the year. “All these seeds are going to turn into tens of thousands of pounds of food for people,” commented one of the volunteers sorting seeds. “Having this idea in the back of my mind makes the work we’re doing here seem all the more important.” The significance of the work we were doing was already obvious in the food we were eating during our stay. The squash soup we had cooked for ourselves came from the same seeds our group had sorted last year.

Other members of our group divided smaller seedlings into larger containers, so they might continue to grow in the center’s outdoor greenhouse. Once these seedlings are strong enough, Grow Appalachia will give them to members of the community who might be unable to grow them from seed. “The work we’re doing here is great in and of itself, but it also makes me want to do more of it for my own community,” one of us commented.

A number of our group helped store and distribute bags of fertilizer for members of the community. This is part of the strategy Grow Appalachia has implemented to help the Big Ugly community and West Virginia as a whole become more self-sufficient in their food production. “What I love about the service we’re doing at Big Ugly is that it’s creating a support system and a network both of and for the community,” another volunteer added.

During our weeklong stay at Big Ugly, the community center gave us tasks that directly addresseGrow Appalachia 2019d issues within the area. As newcomers, we were able to get to know the region through the work we put in for the center, and we were able to better understand what it means to contribute to hardworking families. Perhaps the most impressive thing is how much Grow Appalachia has been able to do with what they have—which begs the question, what could they do with more? As one of our volunteers put it, “This is going to help West Virginia be able to grow more natural foods and become a healthier state.”