Hello Grow Appalachia family,

I wanted to use this space as a way to give some final thoughts about my time working for Grow Appalachia this semester from Kenya. This past semester I lived in Nakuru, Kenya where I took online classes from Berea College and worked creating the Resource Library for Grow Appalachia.

While I was in Kenya, I was able to do a lot of things. I spent the first month traveling across the country living and working with villagers. I lived in a village in Homabay for three weeks where we had no electricity or running water. It was honestly one of the most peaceful times of my life as I spent the days working with cows, building huts, reading, and working on a few projects that my friend had devised. I then traveled to a village near Lake Victoria for a bit before settling down in the apartment I was renting in Nakuru.

The next four months were a wild mixture of constant adventure, anxiety, and new experiences. I had the opportunity to work on a project through Rotary International in Siaya county where I developed a plan for and then acted as an agricultural consultant for a tree planting event where 1200 trees were planted. I am also currently working with Rotary clubs in Kenya and the United States to develop an action plan for a Library that I am building near Migori, Kenya. Outside of Rotary, I was still quite active in the agricultural sphere as I did a small bit of investing as well as agricultural advising for a group of farmers. I was able to visit many nurseries and toured a few of the Kenyan government forest facilities. I was also able to work with the friend who I was staying in to help start an orchard at his house and do some garden planning and management.

While going out on trips during the weekend allowed me to grow in my knowledge of the country and the situation of the local farmers, I spent the weeks working for Grow Appalachia, studying Chinese, and taking classes. This was a difficult mix of items to juggle and it was at times quite overwhelming. In a normal semester at Berea, I would devote all of my time, including weekends, to studying the material. My desire to get out and see the country, work on projects, and interact with local Kenyans led to many sleepless nights and early mornings. However, I was able to push through and finish the creation of the Grow Appalachia Resource Library, a resource that I know will be able to provide value to many of our partners who I look up to and admire.

I have a few final thoughts to share about my time in Kenya. While it may seem that the lives of Kenyan farmers are worlds apart from those living in Appalachia, we share the common language of agriculture. We share many of the same struggles such as deciding what to plant, planning out a garden, figuring out why a certain plant hasn’t produced or figuring out what the heck is eating your tomato plants. We also share a lot of the same joys. The excitement of spring, the beauty of seedlings popping up out of the ground, and appreciating clearing the sweat from your brow after a day of hard work. I loved being able to have an in-depth conversation with tribal herdsmen about their cows or discuss recipes with the old ladies in the village. I was able to show the village men that even a muzungu (white person) can use a pickaxe and hoe as well as they can. I found a lot of beauty in our shared experiences and I am glad that I am able to be here to share it all with you.

I will be taking a break this summer to study Chinese with a government program, but I will rejoin Grow Appalachia this Fall. I am excited to see what new ways I can help the community and I am also excited to find out our own shared passions and ideas.

Thanks for reading through,

Nathaniel Fish