Watch Us Grow

As Grow Wayne enters its fourth year with Grow Appalachia, our program continues to grow. This year there are some new faces, new places, and a few changes happening. Grow Wayne began in Wayne (as you may have guessed) and has since expanded into bordering counties: Cabell and Lincoln. We started with the help of Access WV in 2020. In 2023, we transitioned under the umbrella of WVU Extension Service: Family Nutrition Program.

I was brought on as co-site coordinator this year. I’m a Health Educator in Lincoln and Boone counties for WVU Extension, Family Nutrition Program. This isn’t my first rodeo with gardening. However, Grow Appalachia is a new experience for me. I hope you’ll allow me just a few moments to share my experience so far.

In February, we made our way to Berea, KY for the All Hands Gathering Conference. Wow! What a lovely town, a lovely conference, with lots of lovely people. I particularly loved our Story Circle activity with Nicole Breazeale from University of Kentucky. I won’t go into all the details of the activity, but I will set the scene for you. Imagine 10-15 people, sitting in a circle. Each person is engaged, listening with clear minds, as each person in the circle shares a story or memory of how they became introduced to growing food. The story could be a funny one, possibly a sad one. I was the last in my circle to share my story. After I finished, I looked around my circle, sensing a difference in the air. Bonds were made in our story telling. We were vulnerable in our story telling and we took a walk with one another down memory lane. We realized with a little story telling that our stories were growing something bigger, community.

I was reminded that day of how something as simple as telling a story can grow to be something so much bigger. As I learn more about our program, I am learning that something as simple as bringing people together to learn and share about gardening can be the beginning of something so much bigger. We watched last Tuesday, February 28th as over 65 individuals, families, and community organizations came together to learn more about growing, providing, and caring for their families, neighbors, and communities. Just as one watches in excitement as a seed grows into beautiful, bright sprigs of green, that then take shape and grow into vibrant, lovely flowers. We are excited to watch as each person brings their story to this program, in doing so, growing something bigger: community with those sitting to the left and right of them.

Heather Cook