Just as the network of mycelium under the soil keeps plants healthy, happy, and connected, so do we for one another. Though I am still new to the Southwest Virginia/Northeast Tennessee region, the network of sustainable agriculture folks I have connected with so far has revealed itself to be immensely fruitful!
We had our “Summer Distribution Days” on Thursday, May 12 and (lucky) Friday, May 13. We provided more tools, seeds, and through our partnership with the Virginia Highlands Community College, we were able to provide beautiful transplants (5 Brandywine Tomato, 5 Sun Gold Cherry Tomato, and 5 California Wonder Pepper) to our Grow Your Own participants. It was such a pleasure seeing their reactions to these locally greenhouse grown plants. I heard so many stories about growing experiences and gratitude for being part of our program.
We had our first workshop for the year (since I started in March) on garden planning and general garden maintenance. We have a wide variety of garden sizes, from porch pots to raised beds to a full acre. It was interesting to hear about the different issues people face with different garden types. The level of engagement I have seen so far is remarkable – especially coming from Iowa, where the majority of people are either large-scale row crop farmers or not involved in agriculture at all.
For future workshops, I have had some volunteer participants come forward to offer their own spaces to host. One of my greatest hopes in this work is to create a network and community of sustainability focused organic gardeners. I believe sharing spaces is an excellent way to do just that. Rather than each participant interacting with just me, hosting workshops potluck-style will develop a sense of belonging and *hopefully* encourage the sharing of knowledge among participants. Breaking bread together is a beautiful way to bond!
It doesn’t hurt that the first space we will visit also houses ducklings and baby bunnies!
Not only are all of our participants engaged and excited about the growing season, I have also been contacted by co-ops, Farmer’s Markets, local producers, and other non-profits in the area interested in partnering with Appalachian Sustainable Development! I am hoping to expand our work to engage more people who may not have access to land or face other barriers with these connections.