We have had such an amazing season. However we never did get back to in-person meetings but we got to speak to all our members through distributions and farm visits. Our first distribution was set for Feb. 11th but didn’t happen until March 1st because of ice storms and flooding. We finally got things started with the distribution of Garden Planning information, pea seeds, onion sets and seed potatoes. The weather made it really hard we finally got the information and seeds out to the members.
Spring plants and Garden Planting educational material were handed out in late March though flooding almost kept it from happening. The distribution went very well with almost all our members coming out. I added a new plant to the mix this year. Along with the usual cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower members received 4 Kohlrabi plants. This was a plant most of my gardeners had never heard of but it quickly became a favorite for most. They even exchanged cooking tips and recipes!
Spring is so wonderful and loved, especially if your a gardener. It’s so exciting to smell fresh tilled ground and to feel it on your hands. We tired a new garden spot for our Summer plants here on the Red Bird campus and it produced beyond our wildest dreams.
Berries and More
Blackberries, Raspberries and strawberries are becoming an important part of our program by adding another healthy food choice in to the diets of our community. It has also become a source of income for families who create value added products.
In May we distributed summer plants. Tomatoes, 2 kinds of peppers, summer squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, and tommy toes. If we have any summer plants left over from distribution we plant those in our gardens to sell at the farmers market or to add to the emergency food boxes given out to the community by the mission. Red Bird Mission helps so many families in the community who sometimes can’t afford to feed their families. I’m very happy to be able to help through Grow Appalachia.
Spring into Summer
June sent a blessing our way with the addition of 3 interns working with Prosper Appalachia. Our gardens have never been so weed free! They learned so much while helping us and had the opportunity to earn very nice paychecks in the process.
It was so hard to find canning supplies as many of you know. I had to change my topics for classes around and skip the Preserving you Food until June. My members LOVE to can, that’s for sure. I get all kinds of photos of their canning processes.
Red Bird Farmers Market
I wanted to make a big event out of our first farmers market and I must say it went pretty well. What most of you probably don’t know is that along with being the coordinator for Grow Appalachia I am also the Director of Economic Opportunity here at Red Bird. I am in charge or our community store, craft program, and soon a café. This gives me the perfect chance to help farmers make more money by selling their value added products in my stores. So when it came time for the market to open I used a sale at the community store, a fashion show and craft vendors to introduce the farmers market. To my delight it was a great success!
We had such a wonderful day. Over 300 people turned out for the event. I hope to end the season with a Fall Festival of sorts. I’m currently finalizing plans for that.
The Heat Continues
The gardens are bursting with produce and have done so well but so have the garden bugs. I spend a lot of time with my farmers educating them and myself the difference between good bugs and bad. My Facebook messenger is filled with photos of bugs that people have sent me. It’s actually one of my favorite things to do, identify things. We have had to use hardly any organic pesticides in our gardens this year. The good bugs have been such a help. The interns were always asking “Good bug or bad bug?”
I want to keep the members excited about being part of Grow Appalachia. This year I came up with the idea to have a Biggest Tomato contest. I had 3 members that fought really hard to win. My winner ended up being Michael Brock with a tomato that weighed over 3 pounds.
Tomatoes really did great this year for us and our members.
The Good, Bad and very Ugly
So yes we had some beautiful things come out of the gardens…
Then there was this.
Corn smut invaded our garden here at Red Bird. It took several of our plants and the ones that didn’t get corn smut were blown down by a storm. Our corn crops were a failure this year. Other farmers reported finding corn smut in their gardens this year as well. I’m very curious as to why it’s showing up now and in so many locations. Some of which had no interaction with us or our garden.
This year our wonderful Clay County Ag. agent, Jeff Casada was promoted. Jeff had been with me from the start and losing him was a huge blow. He was always so helpful and always there with answers. He is greatly missed.
I was so worried that we would end up with an Ag. agent that wouldn’t be as friendly or willing to answer all my questions, but as luck would have it we ended up with a man who grew up in the area and has stepped up to be a wonderful help. Will Bowling is the new Ag. agent for Clay County and has already attended 2 of my distributions. He was so please to meet my members and I am so thankful for him and his knowledge.
I too had a new beginning and Grow Appalachia made it possible. In July I married one of my Grow Appalachia members. Without this program we probably would have never met.
Winter is coming
I wish I could say that the days are becoming cooler but they haven’t seemed to be doing that yet. The gardens are dying away slowly, but we still have cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and pumpkins that are growing in the gardens and are thriving. Each year I have more gardeners who plant a fall garden. This was a foreign concept to most but it’s catching on.
Since produce is limited this time of year I decided to have an event I called Pumpkinpolooza. Once again I tried to use my community store and farmers market to draw customers to each other. We celebrated all that was orange. Customers who came to the farmers market received a coupon for the store and anyone wearing orange was entered to win a door prize.
We had everything pumpkin at the market: pumpkin cakes, pumpkin butter, pumpkin pies, and pumpkin cupcakes, not to mention pumpkins which sold out in the first hour the market was open.
We did have some other wonderful things as well.
Pumpkinpolooza was a lot of fun and we had a good turnout for it.
Until Next Year
Soon it will all come to an end. Our last farmers market is fast approaching. However my mind is already working on ideas for next year. I’m thinking about having a biggest pumpkin contest too. I have so many ideas!!
Thank you to everyone at Grow Appalachia for everything you do. I wish you knew how much this program means to the community and our GA team.