Hello from Pocahontas County, WV! I am interning at High Rocks for the summer and working with the High Rocks participant garden. As part of the two educational camps taking place during the summer, each of the girls is assigned a daily job. So, the gardens have been receiving some extra attention from the garden crew. During our first camp, Camp New Beginnings, there were four twelve-year-old girls who spent 45 minutes a day working in the rows up at the campground. I spent time in the garden with the girls planting melons, basil, tomatoes, building cucumber trellises, and attacking the weeds.
The second camp, Camp Steele, which is for girls who are in High School, is now underway and work time has been filled with harvesting garlic, cutting lettuce, cleaning out the green house, planting beets, peas, carrots, and hopefully we will plant some apple trees that were donated and grafted by Missy Westbrook, who worked for High Rocks a few years ago. Missy was one of the people who started the garden at High Rocks, which has now become a consistently producing vegetable heaven.
It has been fun, rewarding, and at times, challenging working with young people in the garden. Some of the girls come from gardening families and are well acquainted with garden work while others don’t come from a gardening background. During Camp New Beginnings, when the radishes were ready to harvest, the girl’s reactions were precious. Two of the girls hated radishes but ate them anyways because they were excited about pulling up fresh veggies and eating them then and there in the garden after wiping away some of the dirt. They were also thrilled when they found out that the radishes they helped to weed had been sitting on the salad bar the day before. Due to a water shortage, we were trying to avoid watering the garden and during the first hard rain some of the garden girls ran out to join me dancing in the rain. Sometimes on hot days a few of the girls complain about having to work out in the sun, or about hiking down the steep path to the raised beds and they ask why they have to garden. This question is answered during dinner when the girls are greeted with the huge salad bowl sitting on the table, and has sparked frequent discussions about why it is important that people grow and eat healthy local foods.
High Rocks is trying to increase the amount of locally sourced produce, eggs, meat, milk, cheese, etc. that we use at camp and during the year. Yesterday we went blueberry picking with all the girls and ended up with giant plastic bags filled with luscious berries. We made pancakes this morning, and froze a whole bunch of poundage which we will use during the year at tutoring and other educational events. The garden has been successfully supplying produce to the kitchen, and kitchen crew has said several times “Really, is it time to pick the beans again?” But the girls aren’t sick of it yet – and neither am I! Tons of High Rocks grown lettuce (tons really is not an exaggeration) and a good amount of herbs, radishes, garlic, cucumbers, beans, kale, broccoli and chard have made it into various dishes at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes are coming right along, and we are trying to be patient.