Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Celebration in the Garden, Red Bird Mission by Magan Meade

          The week of June 28th and the 30th was for many, the most that many gardeners have harvested at the middle of this year’s gardening season.  So far, I have seen bits of broccoli and cauliflower ready to pick to prevent the damaging rains from further discoloring.  I have seen plentiful green tomatoes ready to be fried, an old southern tradition.  Cabbages bursting from the ground, that are ready to be snatched.  I’ve also seen plenty of peppers, especially banana peppers, so obvious from their stems reaching towards the ground.  Pretty soon, we will have even more of these crops along with everyone’s favorite squashes, cucumbers, and zucchini.  We will have so many crops in the next month. Then GROW Appalachia participants will either need to sell them at the Red Bird Mission Farmer’s Market, prepare and store for the colder seasons, or hand out to friends and family.

            So many ideas have ranged in my mind about contributing to Red Bird Mission but most especially the GROW Appalachia program.  So many families are enjoying and reaping the benefits of growing their own food.  It’s a self-rewarding experience and it is a great pay it forward type program.  Our main issue that we have experienced in the past few weeks is the need for sellers at the GROW Appalachia Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 8am- 12pm.  There are a few contributing factors that we have decided upon as to why we have not had any sellers:

1. Only a few crops are beginning to harvest and if they do, it is not enough to sell in bunches.  (Bettina, when selling her vegetables, used a very effective technique of combining the small patches of ripe vegetables into a plastic bag together to make a stir fry mix.)
2. People are afraid that the price of food is going to increase especially in the winter months, and that they would rather store their food through the hard times.
3.  The culture here is that everyone wants to share and there is a real sense of community.  They’re not going to sell it to someone if they can just give it to them.  (They would rather not charge the people they know.) 
4.  Not a lot of people know about our farmers’ market. 

            The ways in which we have dealt with this issue is through advertising and word of mouth.  Last week, we created two flyers for the GROW Appalachia’s Farmers’ Market, we hung them up all over the Manchester city area.  We were only turned down by two organizations in Manchester to hang up the flyers; Wal-mart and Subway.  I believe that this is because of the aesthetics of their entry ways and the promotion of competition is prohibited maybe.  

            The other part of our week was visiting our participants’ garden sites.  We visited the Senior Apartments complex, which several of the residents contribute to a large garden plot.  Pulling up to the apartment complex, a beautiful garden is just in site.  Everything was full and green.  My favorite view is the long sticks protruding the other vegetables full of green bean vines, climbing higher and higher.   We walked along the outside of the garden and noticed most of everyone was taking this program seriously, especially, a woman named Angela.  She had been doing some research to find new ways to keep the weeds and animals out of her crops.  Her piece of the plot was the most obvious out of everyone’s, which displayed her hard work.  She was very investigative when trying to figure out new ways to solve an issue in her part of the garden.  It reminds me of my passion to garden and learn the newest or most reliable techniques. 

            The next garden that we visited on our way back from Manchester, was a pit stop to a man named Robert.  His house was tucked away next to a creek right off of the main road.  His landscaping was absolutely perfect and this has to say something about his garden.  The garden was behind a fenced off playground established for his daycare business.  He told us that he always heard that you’re supposed to plant everything very close together, especially the corn in order to avoid the damaging winds.  At first, you would believe that his methods were true, at least for most of the crops but when it came to the corn, his was the least tall out of the sites that I have seen so far.  Chad explained that the corn needed to be separated more and that two corn plants can be planted together but the rest needed to be at least a foot apart so that the wind can channel through.  (I saw this displayed at the next site).  All together Robert had a beautiful property and a ready to pick garden (he also had my favorites, blackberries and raspberries).  It seems that the berries grow so well here in the mountains, I’ve seen them growing wild alongside of the participant’s garden plots, (what a convenience).  I believe that we should promote the berries more and advocate making them into jams and jellies to sell for a little extra income. 
The last site that we visited for the day was Edna’s three of her four gardens.  Two of the fields were mostly corn and beans grown together, so that the beans can climb the corn stalks.  This person used the methods that Chad had mentioned earlier, planting two corn plants together and spacing the rest a foot apart.  This method did really contribute to the success of the corn plants.  While Chad was there to till one of the corn and bean plots, I took some pictures of the two other garden sites.  One was another corn and bean plot while the other was a basic vegetable garden.  It was a site to see.  This person had really put some hard work into it and recently tilled the ground.  The cabbage was humungous and the rest of the vegetables were ready to be picked or if not were about ready to.  Their cornstalks had been the most progressive ones out of all of the sites that I had seen.  The only caution that I needed to be aware of at this garden was the mass amount of bumble bees flying around the trees, positioned next to the garden.  I believe there had to be some type of nest.  Other than that, I received this excitement inside myself while looking at this garden and the progress that it had made already so early in the year considering a very wet season.  I feel like it would be very useful to gather a meeting of participants to talk about the techniques they have used in their gardens and discuss what has worked for them and what has not.  It would also build that sense of community again, farmer helping farmer.   
Thursday night, we held a canning workshop here in the Cramer Room at Red Bird Mission.  Laura Lee was the Extension Agent for Clay County, who taught the class.  She handed out a wealth of informative materials and tools to learn how to can, freeze, and dry on your own.  She also, taught the workshop through a PowerPoint and series of demonstrations, because if you’re like me, I learn through example.  It was especially great to see the Clay County extension office and the GROW Appalachia program hand out so many free canning, freezing, and drying supplies to the attendees to use on their harvests and to store for a later date. 

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