Draft proposals due Sept. 1!
We’re spotlighting Grow Appalachia this time because it’s such a great way for your community to help local people grow part of their own food. And also because draft preliminary applications for next year's funding (over $10,000) are due Sept. 1. If they invite you, the final application is due October 1. Why submit a draft? If you do, you get to consult with the people who run the program before you submit your final application October 1. That's a big advantage.
Berea College operates this wonderful program. There are five Grow Appalachia sites in West Virginia now: Lincoln, Logan, Pocahontas and Wayne counties and a northern panhandle program that covers four counties! Try This has helped fund four of those sites. We're proud of that.
All kinds of people participate. As Logan County’s Bea Sias says, “You can grow organic vegetables lots of ways - in garden plots, raised beds, whatever works. We’ve got people in town who grow in big buckets if they don’t have a garden space."
The free program requires people to attend six classes to learn effective organic gardening skills. They get free seeds, tools, fertilizer and other such. “By the time they’re finished, these people know what they’re doing!” Bea says.
"We absolutely would like more West Virginia partner sites," Grow Appalachia coordinator Candace Mullins said. "The more sites we have in a small geographic area, the more efficient they are. They can share instructors, buy together in bulk, go see each other and attend each others' classes."
The basic program has lots of wiggle room for you to make it fit your community.
The Linwood program helps small kids start growing food.
The Lincoln County program gave people baby chicks this year.
The northern panhandle added raised beds to
their outdoor ed program.
High Rocks (Pocahontas) built a greenhouse.
Grow Wayne set up a market where people could sell produce.
What's required/ What's different
Every Grow Appalachia site is different in some ways from the others. All partner sites do basic things. Beyond that, they also operate differently, to suit their community needs.
What's required: All sites offer the program free to West Virginians who have a place to garden and are willing to garden organically. They offer six gardening classes to participants with required attendance, get soil samples from all participants to be tested, help each participant develop and draw a garden plan, and record the number of pounds harvested from each garden. And each participant can pick up a free garden tool, starter plants, seeds, and fertilizer. Most programs will arrange drop-offs for people who can’t pick up their materials. They also make home visits to check on the gardens.
Beyond that, they’re different.
The Pocahontas program works with programs for small children and high school girls, as well as home gardens. Logan works with the
The Wayne County
program sets up a
farmer’s market so
participants can sell
their produce (They
made $30,000+ last year!). Lincoln County gave
participants baby chicks last year. The Northern Panhandle program, which covers four counties, created a demonstration site at Wheeling’s Outdoor Learning Center. Wayne also sets up heirloom seed swaps. You can add those things, so long as you
accomplish the basic program.
All the programs post on their Grow Appalachia blog page several times a year. You can find their stories at https://growappalachia.berea.edu/blog/.
For a closer look at the Lincoln/Logan program, operated through Step by Step, WV, go to https://www.stepbystepwv.org/grow-appalachia.
The Grow Appalachia Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/GrowAppalachia/
Linwood grew microgreens.
Bea and Buck: Logan County team
Bea Sias and Buck West, both retired, keep the Logan County program hopping. Here, they are giving out starter plants in parking lots. "Socializing's a big part of it," Bea says.
At 75, Bea Sias has been coordinating Logan County's Grow Appalachia program for 10 years. “We’ve gotten to the point where I just post on my Facebook page that I’m taking Grow Appalachia applications at the library, and 40 or 50 people come by to sign up.”
She starts taking applications in January. “People know it’s a good program, and they want in it. So they look for my post.” She also puts it on the local radio stations, “and I put up signs at the grocery store, places like that and sometimes I get on the radio.”
In Logan, 50 – 70 families usually garden with Grow Appalachia. This year, 68 signed up. One year, more than 90 participated. But that’s not the whole Logan County story. Bea and Buck also work with the drug recovery program, the libraries and senior citizen assisted living. “We’ve got three Fresh Start Day reports," she said in March. "Children’s story hour at Man Library has a garden. The recovery home for women in Logan. And Chapmanville Towers, which is assisted living for senior citizens.”
In spring, Bea and Buck hand out plant starters, tools and so forth in the Logan library parking lot and roadside pull-offs all over the county. Bea sits in her lawn chair, checking people in. They tell her how many pounds of food they’ve harvested so far, and she writes it down. “We’re required to keep track,” she said. She expects them to top 60,000 pounds this year. That's 30 tons.
“I have gardeners who like to
compete against each other,”
she said. “One garden is always
better than the other. Or bigger.
My potatoes are bigger than yours.
And so it’s a competition. They
show each other pictures. They
have those cameras out. And it’s
a thing they do, is start bragging.”
Inbetween in-person checkins, Bea gets on the phone and calls the gardeners. “I ask them how they’re doing and how their garden’s doing. Give them a chance to ask questions.” Buck, who grew up in a gardening family, visits people to give advice. “I couldn’t do this without Buck,” Bea said. “He does the heavy lifting.
“We’re both retired, but we do this, and it’s not much stress at all. We love the gardening, and we love helping people.”