Greeting from Cowan Community Center!  My name is Debbie Cook and I am the coordinator for the Grow Appalachia Gardening Program at the Center.

When the 2020 garden seed catalogs started arriving in late December, I was really distracted and eager to look at them. I thought about last year’s gardens with all the challenges and rewards and dreamed about warmer days like we are having.  I asked the Community Center Board of Directors for ideas and their thoughts at monthly meetings and Valerie Horn and I planned dates & agendas for meetings and started gathering supplies and members.

The City of Whitesburg / Letcher County Farmers Market is a close friend of Cowan Community Center and we share  opportunities for agriculture growth and learning.  On February 2, 2020 we partnered with the Letcher County Health Department and over 20 members attended classes and received Food Handlers Certification.  The weather was cold and snowy, but everyone talked about gardening and a couple members with High Tunnels were planting.  There are several High Tunnels in Letcher County and I know of 2 that have tomato plants growing  and several with cold crops growing.  On February 22nd, we had our first official Grow Appalachia Meeting at the CANE kitchen in Whitesburg.  We had a full agenda on planning and planting a garden.  There were pea seeds, garden journals and over 20 handouts with information available at the meeting.  Brandon Fleming fixed a wonderful breakfast and we enjoyed local Maple Syrup and shared lots of garden knowledge and stories and friendship.   On February 27th, we were back at the CANE kitchen to hear Dr. Dawn Brewer from UK talk about the importance of Phytonutrients in our diets.  There were Oral Cancer Screenings available and we enjoyed a Plant Based Meal that included some awesome Sweet Potato Chili.

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The warm weather has lots of people outside working and planting gardens.  On March 5th, we had a low tunnel demonstration and supply give away at the Cowan Community Center.  Lots of gardeners have given positive feedback on using the low tunnels.    Our next Grow Appalachia meeting was scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 21 and now we are told that we need to practice social distancing. All my meeting plans are going to change.  My excitement to help families garden has turned to urgency to help people grow healthy food.  Valerie and I have discussed many options and are hoping to prepare garden care packages with seeds, plants, information and love to be picked up.  We are blessed to be participants in the Berry Care Program thru UK and Dr. Dawn Brewer and will be providing Berry plants, information and growing amendments to gardeners interested in participating in the program.

Gardening is important to nourish the body and mind.  There is so much to be learned.

Spring is here.  I have peas seeds planted and cabbage, brussel sprouts and Romaine lettuce growing in my garden.  As I worked outside today, I noticed the birds and frogs singing, Strawberries growing and dandelions and other flowers blooming.  I was thankful for the warmth and smiled at the  tiny Tennessee spinner gourds I found while tidying up the garden.  I thought of my mother-in-law who taught me to garden and lots of other things about life.   She passed away last Spring.  I live next to the home that she grew up in and last summer I showed her 3 year old great-grandson how to garden in the same dirt that she taught me.  Thinking of the Past reminds me that I need to Work for the Future.  I am ready to get outside and work in the garden.  But, the ground is cold and wet and I must have patience and not rush the season.  I am anxious to feel warm soil beneath my bare feet and watch seeds sprout.

I wish everyone good health and I pray that we are able to overcome the obstacles in front of us.

Take Care,