Growing up in the hills of Tennessee, my grandmother always had us working. She was an old school Appalachian woman who knew you had to work to survive. We raised huge gardens as well as cows, pigs, and chickens. She also had us forage for edibles. I can remember walking miles and miles through the woods picking cherries, blackberries, and raspberries, searching for walnuts and chestnuts, climbing trees to pick apples and pears, and even wading through a creek picking greens. Of course, the work didn’t stop there, once you harvested something you had to preserve it. There was little use for the grocery store back in those days.

Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away when I was still a young girl and with her passing times changed and much of the effort to grow our own food went with her. When I got married, I was fortunate enough to live in her old house which stirred up a lot of memories for me and the desire to be more like her as she was my favorite person. As my family grew and the world changed, we had to decide to let that old house go after 25 years and move on, but I still hold all those memories dear to my heart and gardening is just one way I can still feel a connection.

Unlike my sweet mammaw, I don’t have a green thumb and the only thing I really know about gardening is to stick seeds in the ground, give them a little water and sunshine and hope for the best.  Even still, gardening and pressure canning are ways I try stretch our grocery budget and over the past few years, it has become abundantly clear that we need to get back to the old ways and be less reliant on grocery stores.

Of course, gardening faces many challenges as sometimes Mother Nature likes to play games with us. This year we endured scorching temperatures, destructive winds, and torrential downpours all in the same month. As a backyard gardener, it broke my heart to see my family’s hard work take beating after beating and it made me think about how much we need to appreciate local farmers. While our harvest wasn’t as good as we had hoped, we were still blessed to collect and preserve a lot of garden goodies, and nothing tastes better on Thanksgiving than green beans you raised yourself.

I’d like to thank Morgan and the Appalachian Sustainable Development for sponsoring the Grow Your Own Program.  The tools provided have been so appreciated and the classes/meetings have been so helpful but most of all I’m thankful to everyone who contributes for helping me develop an important life skill. Thanks to ya’ll I’m looking forward to a fall/winter garden for the first time ever! Here’s to learning to become less reliant on the grocery store and more self-sustainable like my grandma.