A young mother teaches her child patience and the value of hard work. A full-time college student finds new ways to practice her studies. A native Appalachian appreciates her community more than ever. Ashley Keene, of Oakwood, Virginia, shares her gratitude for Appalachian Sustainable Development’s (ASD) Grow Your Own program.
A 501 (c)3, ASD’s mission is to build a thriving regional food and agriculture system that creates healthy communities, respects the planet, and cultivates profitable opportunities for Appalachians by partnering with local farmers, landowners and families, other non-profits, corporate partners, individual donors and stakeholders.
While this Buchanan County family knows the importance of food sovereignty and sustainable living, they lacked confidence, compacity and resources in growing their own garden. That is until Keene discovered the program. “This is definitely something we wanted to be a part of,” she shares after receiving a recruitment email from a friend.
Established in 2012, the Grow Your Own program empowers beginner gardeners to take control of their food sovereignty by cultivating their own home or community gardens and earning income from sales of produce. Within the last nine years, families have grown more than 140,000 pounds of food in this program.
Worried that her backyard wouldn’t suffice, ASD’s Agriculture Education team paid a visit to survey her land. “People don’t realize that you can garden in a very small area, even in just a few small pots and that’s something ASD has really helped me with,” says Keene who is excited to enter her third year with the program. Through Grow Your Own, participating members can receive training, technical support, seeds, plants, tools and tilling services.
As she prepares for her career in counseling, Keene is pushed out of her comfort zone and welcomed by peace. “I always tell people that gardening is my therapy. It’s so amazing; I feel so relaxed!”, says Keene.
Grow Your Own has not only helped the Keene family grow and share their own crop, but has helped them grow as a family, too! “This program has helped us as a family to get out of our comfort zone and spend time together,” says Keene. “And by having the option to share with our neighbors and friends, has made all of our hard work worth it.”
Grow Your Own is one of over 30 sites partially funded by Grow Appalachia and since there is a constant need for supplies, various sponsorship opportunities exist for garden suppliers.