When I write these blogs every month I try to think of how Grow Appalachia has impacted the lives in my community. I can say without hesitation that it has done just that for so many wonderful people in so many wonderful ways. However none more than mine.

This has been my 4th season as a Grow Appalachia Coordinator at Red Bird Mission. With all honesty, I am not the same person that walked into that interview. Families have come and gone from the program but almost all have left a mark on my life. I have grown to be more confident, and I can never remember ever being this happy. I have built friendships that will last the rest of my life.

In my first season, I met the Heltons. Even though I grew up just a few miles down the road from them. I never really knew them. My parents owned a grocery store so I recognized a lot of people’s faces. I did remember Mr. Helton. because he always had a stern voice and I thought he was a mean old man so I would stay out of his way.

The King of the Market

Herman Helton is now a staple of my farmers market, holding court and entertaining the masses. I am now thrilled to call him a good friend.

People come and sit with Herman and talk for hours. A few weeks ago and he became very ill and he and his wife Charlene were unable to attend the market. People kept asking where he was and were genuinely disappointed and concerned when I told them that he was not well.

Herman can usually be found sitting on the bench behind his wife’s table.

Now don’t forget he had the reputation of being grumpy with me but as an adult, I figured him out. He would tell me how bad I looked and I would come back with some smart comment like, “I can’t look any worse than you.” He would beam with joy at my sassiness. Four seasons later I’m greeted with some sort of mean, grouchy comment, and a big wide grin. Oh! and Herman is a book when it comes to knowing everyone’s genealogy! He loves to pick at me constantly reminding me I’m related to a man they called Bad Willy. LOL! I just tell him how thankful I am that I’m not related to him!

The Queen

Every King needs a strong beautiful queen and Herman has that in Charlene. She is the kindest, most considerate human I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is a gardening powerhouse and her garden looks like something from a magazine. Herman takes credit for it of course but we all know who has the green thumb in that family.

Charlene has her Home Based Mircoprocessing certification and sells her canned goods in Red Bird Missions Community store. I have jars of her bread and butter pickles, pear butter, and apple butter in my pantry and fridge right now. It’s so good! I call her my other mother.

The Warrior Historian

Daugh Sizemore can keep me spellbound with his knowledge of Appalachian history. He retired from the Army and went on to become a history teacher. His lovely wife Joyce bakes and makes candy while he gardens. Their table at the market is one you can’t walk past without stopping. While there you’ll probably want to get a jar of sorghum that he grows and processes himself.

The Beast

Darrell Whitehead is the newest addition to my farmers market and Grow Appalachia this year. It took me a year of courting to get him to join Grow Appalachia and the market. Both of us are glad he did. He never fails to show up with some of the most beautiful veggies I’ve ever seen. Lines quickly form at his table.

Waiting in line to visit Darrell’s table.

The Joker

Nathaniel “Pino” Brock, yes we have lots of Brocks in this area, has been my assistant for 3 seasons now. He has been a joy to work with. His humor balances out my stress and keeps me sane. There’s never a dull moment with him around. I am blessed to have him as a co-worker and friend.


Mr. Right

I met McKinley Brock my 1st season as a Grow Appalachia Coordinator. He amazed me with his gardening knowledge and whenever I ran into a problem or had a question he is one of the first people I would turn to. Little did I know that just a couple of years later he would be my husband.

I visited his garden and met his nephews and father that first year. Four generations working the land together. McKinley’s father who will soon be 94 years old mostly does the overseeing now. McKinley, his nephew Pat and Pat’s young sons work the land. Pat is a beekeeper and brings honey to the market regularly. Pat’s sons are deeply rooted in mountain traditions thanks to these good men.

My Family

Never did I guess that my life would be so transformed by a job. I am so happy and have so many, amazing new people in my life. I have barely scratched the surface by mentioning these few. There are so many more. I’m changed as so many more lives are by being touched by Grow Appalachia.