Hello and happy new gardening year! We are so stoked to be back for another year with Grow Appalachia. This year, we have quite a few changes that we are undergoing as Build It Up grows with new people and expands to reach more community members. Lexy has stepped into a new project at ARCD, taking on managing a meat processing facility we are building in our county. This project has been a long time coming and will greatly benefit the farmers in the area. While she’s doing that, I (Rosie) will be taking over as Program Director for Build It Up. I will also be managing ARCD’s beginning farmer training programs and women farmer skills sessions. I’m in for a busy year!
Changes to the Build It Up Program
Now, to talk about what’s new with Build It Up. We have been with Grow Appalachia for 9 years and tend to make small changes each year. It helps to constantly improve the program to be the best it can be. This year, I decided to be ambitious (too ambitious?) and add a few aspects to our program. One is revamping our market gardening program that has fallen a bit to the wayside in past years.
Market Gardening Program
We received feedback last year that we could offer the program for more than two years. With that in mind, it seemed fitting that we open the market gardener program to gardeners that wanted to stay in the program for a third year. This means that gardeners will have enough knowledge about gardening to expand their operations and still be comfortable growing food. Educational sessions are optional for them. They will receive seeds and plants and we only require that they turn in harvest totals and sale totals. We also require that they sell and report on at least $250 worth of produce. We are working with several farmers markets in the area that are willing to provide free booths for Build It Up gardeners.
Education Only Pilot Program
The other addition to our program this year is adding a pilot education only program. Every year we get more applications than we can accept and sometimes those applications are folks that have a lot of gardening experience under their belts and infrastructure already in place. However, they’re looking for organic gardening education. Either they’re looking to transition from conventional to organic or they’ve taken other gardening classes. Or, they just have a lot of gardening experience and are looking for community. In order to not stretch our resources too thin, we’re offering an education only option for five people this year. They will be able to attend all educational workshops as well as food preservation classes and receive all educational materials but will not receive materials such as seeds, plants, tools, etc. In return, they will turn in harvest totals and host us for a garden visit in July. I’m hoping this will be a great tool to reaching more people with invaluable gardening education in the community.
More Community Garden Support
We will also be partnering with community gardens in the area to further our reach. We hope to supply them with any extra seeds and plants we have. In our monthly educational classes this year, we will be offering a zoom option. We will give community gardeners associated with those gardens access to those classes on Zoom ONLY. Unfortunately, the classroom we are using for classes only has a capacity of 50, so options for in person learning is limited. Something to address for next year! The gardeners that utilize classes and materials will be asked to track their harvest totals. In the past, we have had a hard time tracking all of the extra stuff we hand out. I’m hoping that with stronger partnerships, we can track our impact better.
More Food Preservation Classes!
Last but not least, and something I’m most excited about, is the expansion of the food preservation side of our program. This is something we struggle to do in house because we don’t have meeting space or experts for leading the sessions. Luckily, we have found an amazing Extension person to lead our classes who is amazing and loves teach Build It Up folks! She is also willing to do it mostly for free. We are also partnering with a few local venues to host the workshops. One is a Farm Bureau classroom that is giving us free classroom space. The other is called the Langston Center and hosts programs for youth. They have very generously offered us a space for free.
We will be conducting 10 classes on a variety of different food preservations methods including:
- Cooking (3 classes, a Mediterranean style cooking series)
- Water bath canning (3 classes on jams and jellies, pickles, and tomatoes)
- Pressure Canning
- Freezer Prep Meals
The hope is that more variety can provide learning for folks with different levels of food preservations skills. Every participant will be required to take at least one cooking and one canning class. Additionally, each participant that attends each class will receive $10 worth of Build It Up bucks which are redeemable for $10 of fresh produce (fruits or veggies) at participating farmers markets in the area. This is possible due to partnership with the double dollars and prescription program my coworker, Rachel, is running. I am very excited to be able to offer this to our gardeners! Not only will it increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally, but it supports our farmers too!
I look forward to writing more updates throughout the year. Until then, happy gardening!
Build It Up