Good start, but not without challenges

In Wise County, we had the goal of adding as many new Grow Appalachia growers as possible this year, especially from the towns of Coeburn and Appalachia.  We haven’t seen a lot of participation from those towns in the past.  We had sign-ups and the Garden Planning class at Coeburn Middle School in mid-February and did manage to get some new folks connected.  We currently have 7 new families enrolled, plus 11 who are returning from last year.  Depending on how late in the year, we’re all able to return to normal activities, we still plan to have a recruitment event in Appalachia.

Despite the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 situation, we’re still able to communicate with participants, and I think their growing efforts are proving to be a welcome distraction from all the news reports.  One of the participants called me this week to report that her garlic and walking onions are doing well.

We managed to get raspberries into the community with maximum social distancing!  An organic grower contacted me by email to say she had thinned out her raspberry patch and wanted to share the new starts with the Grow Appalachia group.  She left them in buckets beside her driveway one morning, and then I left them in buckets at the office for our participants to pick up at their convenience.  We were all appreciative of the healthy plants with their vigorous root systems.

On March 10, we had our annual apple grafting workshop, which was the most successful one we’ve ever had, thanks to our partnership with Southwest Virginia Museum.  This isn’t exclusively for Grow Appalachia, but several of the GA families always take part.  We had over a dozen apple varieties this year, thanks to Mullins Orchard.  (At one time, Wise County was the third largest apple producing county in Virginia, but Mullins Orchard is the last one standing.)

Moving forward from here, we’re going to be forced to offer the Garden Planting workshop via Zoom webconferencing, but hopefully we can get together again in May.  The silver lining is that I’ve finally learned how to navigate my way through Zoom, a skill that can have other applications once the virus precautions have been fulfilled.

We’ve hired a technician, Rick Colley, who will be able to help with plowing and supply pick-up through early June.  And we’ll be doing (Zoom) interviews next week for our summer intern.

All things considered, it’s been a good start.