-Marcelle St. Germain, Step by Step
Big Ugly, West Virginia

Sometimes stories come to life in amazing ways, and that happened recently with the Big Ugly Community Center Summer Program when the 2nd and 3rd graders read the book “City Green” by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan. The story is about a young girl who is the impetus for a garden that inspires people in the neighborhood to grow vegetables and flowers where an eyesore of a vacant lot had stood. The story also inspired the students.

After reading the story, the students then learned about gardening and how to transplant young plants. Using tomato plants started in the Big Ugly greenhouse for families in the Grow Appalachia program, students carefully transferred their young plants from small starter containers to roomier containers made from recycled pop bottles. They put soil around the plants, careful to not pack the dirt in too tightly since just like people, plants need to breathe and will suffocate if the dirt is packed tight. They learned about keeping the plants moist but not too wet, and their need to be kept in a sunny spot. They learned that just like them, plants need to be nurtured in order to grow and thrive.

Already these young gardeners are looking forward to eating the tomatoes off their own plants, planning on using them in everything from plain sliced tomatoes to salads to burger toppings; one young gardener and chef wants to make their own catsup. But our hope is that the harvest from this project is more than just a few tomatoes: Grow Appalachia program information is being sent home with the students to encourage their families to be a part of the 2020 growing season program (plus we hope some of these young gardeners will continue to want to garden and grow their own food for years to come).