Friday, October 28, 2011

Discovering Herbs ~Pine Mountain, Maggie Ashmore

Although my mother always had a small herb garden, I have never cooked with herbs much. I made a lot of pesto out of basil, arugula, and garlic scapes, but that was about the extent of my herb usage. I never even liked to drink tea until I was 20. Before then, I thought that tea just tasted like some grass thrown in hot water.

Young Peppermint and Lemon Balm Plants in the Community Garden

After attending the Organic Growers School Conference ( last March with a few Grow Appalachia participants I became excited about herbs. Grow Appalachia participants attended sessions on herbal medicine and growing herbal tea gardens.  These participants inspired me to grow a tea garden in the Pine Mountain Community Garden, as well as plant culinary herbs.  I used the wonderful hand out from the tea garden workshop as the basis for what I grew this season. This hand out can be found on the Organic Growers School spring conference library webpage ( Southern Exposure Seed Exchange ( also has good information about herbs in their seed catalog.
One Grow Appalachia family lent me the Making Herbs Simple DVD from Bulk Herb Store. This DVD shows how to identify, harvest and dry herbs, and make poultices and tinctures. Another Grow Appalachia family grew their own small tea garden at their home and made Holy Basil tea and tinctures to help with health problems, while others grew a little bit of peppermint and lemon balm for tea.
Herbs increase the flavor in any meal and have real health benefits. Why was I missing out on these tasty plants before? I found them easy to grow, easy to harvest and dry (although somewhat time consuming) and easy to collect seed from. I have many jars filled with herbs for cooking and tea this winter. I will definitely be growing herbs again next year!
Some of the herbs I grew this summer are listed below with a brief description and ideas for use:
Basil! in the Community Garden

Holy Basil: Holy basil is highly aromatic and antimicrobial.  The leaves and flowers are used as a medicinal tea for colds, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, headaches, arthritis, diabetes, stress & anxiety.  Culinary uses: fresh leaves can be added to salads and are used as a more pungent version of basil

Sweet Basil: One of my favorite herbs! Delicious as pesto served with pasta, vegetables, and meat. I put basil in almost everything (scrambled eggs, homemade pizza, mashed potatoes, even a few leaves on top of chocolate cake is nice!)

Lemon Basil: Rare basil with deep lemon fragrance. Use for fish dishes, herb vinegars, and tea.

Rosemary: Used for seasoning vegetable or meat dishes. Rosemary has diverse medicinal properties, the most notable being its use as a circulatory stimulant. Extracts of rosemary have strong antioxidant and preservative properties.

Anise-Hyssop: Delicious licorice/anise flavored medicinal and tonic tea, digestive soother and fever breaker. Very attractive to bees and butterflies.

Cilantro: The leaves (cilantro) and seeds (coriander) are used in Chinese, Indian, and Mexican cuisine. Medicinal: the seeds are used to increase perspiration and appetite.

Parsley: Great with pasta and vegetables

Chamomile: The sweet-scented flowers of chamomile are used to make chamomile tea which has a distinctive apple-like flavor and fragrance. Medicinal: Chamomile has long been used as a gas suppressor, and as an anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer remedy. It also suppresses muscle spasms, and is anti-microbial.

Peppermint: Easy to grow aromatic and tasty tea plant.  Peppermint is employed medicinally as a mild and safe remedy for indigestion, insomnia, colds, fevers and colic. I made a pitcher of iced peppermint tea almost every week. It was the most refreshing treat after working the garden all day. I also made mint jelly this summer which is good on meats, beans, peas, and cream cheese. Rubbing peppermint on your skin also helps to keep insects at bay.

Lemon Balm: Delightfully aromatic, delicious as tea. Medicinally used to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Lemon balm has anti-viral action, is a sedative, and gas suppressor.  Fresh leaves offer a lemony addition to salads, soups, sauces and vinegars. This hot tea is so sweet there is no need to even add honey (unless you want to add some local honey for health benefits!)

Dill: Leaves and seeds can be used to flavor dishes and pickling. I have found it difficult to find dill seed in the groceries to make pickles with (and I do not like using dill weed or pickling spice mixes in my pickles), so growing my own has become a necessity.

Sage: A flavoring herb for meats, dressings, and sauces. It can be used as a digestive and nerve tonic. It is astringent and antibacterial.

Thyme: Great with greens, rice, and black eyed peas or greens, pasta, and feta cheese 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pests, Partners and Persimmons

It has been a good week here in David, Kentucky. I am settling into my new job and meeting all the wonderful people who have been a part of the first year of Grow Appalachia at St. Vincent Mission. This past weekend we had volunteers from Little Paint Church of God come to help us get the community garden raised beds ready for winter with a good cleaning, composting and planting with winter wheat. While working with the compost we disturbed a family of mice (I didn’t scream or run or anything) and the youth pastor found a baby mole in one of the raised beds. I’m wondering if we are doing something wrong, especially in our compost. I don’t think four legged critters are part of the decomposition process.
This week I got to visit several of our partner families at home and I have to say I am pretty impressed with a couple of the gardens even if they are done for this year. I am planning classes in extending the growing season for several of these folks for next year because I’m sure they would still be out gardening if they could be. I also connected with my friend Bev May about working with us on organics and marketing. She is one of the group of local farmers who were instrumental in getting the Floyd County Farmer’s Market up and running the last two seasons and she gardens organically on the “May Farm” the same piece of land her grandmother worked decades ago. The May Farm was the site of a mushroom growing seminar just last weekend. I am looking forward to some great “fireside chats” with Bev this winter about all we plan on growing in the spring and selling in the summer.
Another great resource that has dropped in my lap comes from our partnership with the UK Extension Service, District One offices. They are running a seven session program entitled Family Home Gardening which is “designed for families wanting to learn about growing and preserving their own foods.” The sessions will be presented over the internet at all 20 District One offices. The first one is November 29th and is on Garden Planning and Preparation. I love it when I don’t have to invent the wheel, just grease it a bit.
As far as persimmons, well I am not even sure what they are but it sounded good in my title since I like things in threes. Hope your winter gardens are thriving, those of you with the foresight to plan ahead. Peace. Kathy

Final Grow Appalachia meeting of 2011 at Red Bird Mission

We held our final Grow Appalachia meeting here at Red Bird Mission Thursday Oct.20 2011. We distributed two books to all participants that attended. One was"Carrots love Tomatoes" which is a book teaching basic organic gardening tips and tips on companion gardening. The second was "Canning, Pickeling and preserving which had some helpful ideals on preserving the produce they have grown.
We collected soil samples and had the participants fill out a 2011 survey along with thier application for 2012. We are hoping that feed back from our participants will help us to better serve each clients individual needs next year.
 We constructed  three 4ft. by 8ft. raised beds and delievered  them to DeWall Senior Citizen Center this week. This center serves over 8,000 meals a year to seniors in Leslie,Clay and Bell counties.Congregate members will participate in Grow Appalachia next year enableing them to take home fresh produce that they  have helped to grow.

Field Worker,
Chad Brock
Dwayne Yost

Tracy Nolan and Dwayne Yost

Herbert Couch

"Standing room only"

Joseph Hacker

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Excited in Pocahontas County!!

Hello all,

My name is Renae and I am an Americorps Vista member working on the Grow Appalachia program at High Rocks, in Pocahontas County, WV. I have lived in Pocahontas County for most of my life and been a participant in the High Rocks for Girls program just as long. I love to be outside working or just enjoying the fresh air. I worked in my Grandfather’s garden for several years and intend to continue to do so. His garden has an array of things like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peas, carrots, beets and much more. I used to help an elderly neighbor with her garden, which consisted of mostly snap peas, three days a week when I was in high school. I have also assisted my grandmother who lives in Texas with her garden, and I know that the difference in climate can have a huge affect on what you can grow successfully and when.  I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science from Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, KY.  I was gone for a few years while attending college and I am looking forward to getting to know my community again. While I have moved back to Pocahontas County, it is a different part and very different from the area that I lived before. I have spent time in both West Virginia and Kentucky and have firsthand experience of the hardships that fall onto the people there. I am very excited to start helping people to become for self reliant.

I have been spending countless hours researching so that we may overcome some of the problems that we ran into last gardening season. I have already learned some interesting things about weedless gardening and treating the soil from the top down. I am excited to start my own garden and see if it works. I also am doing research on how to fix our critter problems. I have been informed that there were a lot of problems with rabbits, ground hogs, deer and other animals getting into people’s gardens and eating the majority of what they were growing. There are several resources available that explain how to keep those critters away in a humane way, without hurting or killing them. I think that if we could improve the critter problem we could as much as double our results of food grown and families fed.  

A community garden is a great way to bring people together and help folks get to know one another. High Rocks helped me get to know people when I was new to the community and now I hope to achieve the same thing for others through Grow Appalachia, while helping people to overcome the power that grocery stores have over them. If the community gardens are successful and we can get enough people involved in them, it would not only benefit the people as far as growing their own food and saving money, but also improve the quality of life in Appalachia. In our area the quality of life is pretty high, but there is always room for improvement, this means more happy people. The different areas of Pocahontas County and Greenbrier County are each their own little community. Through Grow Appalachia we could bring all of these communities together so that they do work together and are not so alienated from one another.  I really feel that a lot can be accomplished through the Grow Appalachia program and that countless people will be touched by it.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A New Face at St. Vincent Mission

Hi. My name is Sr. Kathy Curtis and I have the privilege of being the new Grow Appalachia Program Manager for St. Vincent Mission. I have been interested in the program since David Cooke first brought it to Floyd County but I was on sabbatical for a year in preparation to become a Benedictine Sister so I had to stay on the sidelines. I was envious of first Joanne and then Gary as they brought Grow Appalachia to the hills and hollers of our beautiful countryside. Envy wasn’t very beneficial to my new calling however so I worked in the monastery’s raised beds and gleaned all the knowledge I could from the program. I served fresh lettuce, peas and onions in the spring, beamed with pride at my first harvest dinner of new potatoes, green beans and fried green tomatoes (with cornbread of course) and mourned my tomatoes when the blight hit them. It was a wonderful way to spend a summer.
At the end of my sabbatical year I had to start thinking about finding a job. Imagine my delight when I found out the Program Manager’s position was opening up here at the Mission. I had the privilege of meeting some of our families at the end of season harvest dinner and ate some wonderful fixings—the best sweet potatoes and corn pudding I have ever had!
So I am hitting the road running signing up families, looking for locations for community gardens and trying to get my foot in the door of the elementary schools. I have so many ideas but I know I don’t have to invent the wheel because y’all already have it working. Any advice you want to pass my way-especially on community gardens and farmers markets-please feel free. I can be reached at I look forward to growing with you.
Peace. Sr. Kathy

Local Foods Potluck- Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

Friday marked the date of our final 100 Mile local foods potluck for the season. We had a good turnout, with our most committed Grow Appalachia members in attendance. The local foods potlucks are always a very enjoyable way to share a meal and conversation with some great people and we were happy to once again be celebrating a successful season of gardening together.

                Everyone brought delicious food to share including main dishes made from late season crops such as butternut squash, cushaw, green beans, bell peppers and more, as well as wonderful desserts that took advantage of the blueberries and blackberries that several families have growing on their land. Throughout the past several years Grow Appalachia coordinators have worked to record and collect recipes for the dishes that people bring to each potluck and this year we hope to take advantage of our off season office time to compile a cookbook of Grow Appalachia recipes.
GA members admire the many wonderful dishes

Here are several of the recipes that we collected this past week:

Blueberry Buckle from Geneva Brock

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup milk
½ tsp almond extract

Directions: Sift together flour and baking powder. In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat until smooth. Mix together milk and almond extract and add to butter and sugar alternating with the flour; beat until smooth. Pour batter into buttered 9 inch pan.
Fruit layer: Sprinkle 2 cups blueberries with 2tsp lemon juice and pour evenly over batter in the pan.
Topping: Mix together ¼ cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, ½ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ cup butter. Combine with your hands to form a crumbly dough. Sprinkle mixture over the berries.
Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Serve warm or cold with cream.

Butternut Squash Soup from Maggie Ashmore

2 large butternut squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups apple juice or milk

1.)    Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut squash in half and bake on baking sheet for about 45 minutes remove from oven and let cool.
2.)    Scoop out squash and place in food processor.
3.)    Heat oil in heavy saucepan. Saute the carrots, onions, and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, curry, cinnamon and nutmeg and continue to cook until spices are evenly  distributed.
4.)    Add carrot mixture to squash in food processor. Add 1 cup apple juice or milk and process until smooth.
·         At this point the soup is perfect to freeze. If you freeze the soup, add the additional 2 cups of apple juice or milk when you want to eat the soup, or add the 2 cups at this point and enjoy right away!

Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese from Kathleen Powers

1 butternut squash
½ cup milk (add more or less depending on how thick you want the sauce to be)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Thyme
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cups Gouda cheese, grated (any kind of cheese that melts well will work)
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 box whole wheat pasta, cooked

1.)    Cut squash in half and bake at 350° F for about 1 hour or until soft
2.)    Scoop out squash from skin and blend with milk in food processor until smooth.
3.)    In saucepan warm the squash over low heat. Add the cheese and cook until mixture is completely combined.
4.)    While sauce is heating sauté the onions, garlic, and thyme until soft, about 5-10 minutes.
5.)    Add the garlic and onions to sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste.
6.)    Pour sauce over cooked pasta and enjoy while hot!

We would love to create a cookbook that showcases the Grow Appalachia program as a whole and features recipes using food produced by Grow Appalachia members from every site. If you have recipes you would like to submit or are interested in helping with the project please let us know!

Leave a comment here or feel free to contact me at:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Field Day at Will Bowlings farm Chad Brock ----Red Bird Mission

Last Thursday the Red Bird Farmers Project had a field day at Will Bowling’s Farm.
A few of the Grow Appalachia participants were able to attend this seeing that some are members of both Grow Appalachia and the farmer’s project. The topics discussed that day were rotational grazing, goat and sheep production; pasture planning, season extension in a greenhouse and small fruit production.
Inside his greenhouse he had a variety of Cole crops coming in season as well as some beautiful heirloom Purple Cherokee tomatoes still producing well. This was a chance to get some ideals from someone who has started a successful small farm and seems to really have a handle on things.

       A heirloom Purple Cherokee tomato
Mustard greens

Broccolli well on its way

Raised beds
Raised beds with drip line

Joe and Margret Hacker

Esther Mason

By:Chad Brock/ Grow Appalachia field worker

Friday, October 14, 2011

Here's to Another Season Come and Gone: Final Report 2011-Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

Along with every other site, we here at Pine Mountain have been busy finalizing our report for the 2011 Grow Appalachia year. Many of our participants expressed discouragement that this growing season proved extremely difficult and that many hardships cost them a large amount of their harvest. Numerous participants told of their corn being victim to raccoons, their potatoes eaten by moles, tomatoes infected with blight, and all around low yield on many crops. Despite the difficult season these families remained positive about the healthy plants they did have over the summer and the opportunity to start fresh again next spring. Though weather and animals may have greatly reduced the amount of produce harvested this year we were pleasantly surprised to find that Pine Mountain Grow Appalachia families grew and harvested over 723 bushels of food, weighing in at 28,200 pounds, during the 2011 growing season, more than twice as much as the 13,600 pounds recorded during 2010! We were also pleased to know that our Grow Appalachia families share their bounty of produce with an estimated total of 300 people, as well as several local nursing homes.
Once all the harvest records were compiled we had a great range of produce with everything from greens and lettuces, to squashes, melons and herbs.

 Here's a small section of our final records:

Produce Type
Amount (in pecks)
1 peck
272.5 pecks
5.3 pecks
2.58 pecks
Butternut Squash
50.5 pecks
84.75 pecks
5 pecks
11 pecks
.75 pecks
264.5 pecks
315 pecks
.75 pecks
.7 pecks
1 peck
2 pecks
48.5 pecks
23 pecks

     With the money we didn’t spend during the season we are now offering our participants the option to order fruit trees and berry bushes. Many families ordered trees and bushes last year and are hoping to see them fruit within the next year or two. I got to meet one family who has reserved a space near their house that they call “the orchard”, in hopes that they will slowly be able to fill it with different kinds of fruit trees.  It is really exciting to expand into new areas of food production and to see the enthusiasm that our participants have for these ventures and the coming growing season.
As we look ahead and begin to plan for next year we are focusing on expanding our program to include more families and to extend our services to a larger area of the community. We hope to be able to offer diverse and useful workshops to the community and to recruit more local people who have a genuine interest in local food production in Southeastern Kentucky. One of our biggest challenges in the upcoming year will be the effort to grow for market and to find a profitable way to market our local produce to people outside of the program. Though it will require many hours of planning and brainstorming, I remain positive that we can come up with a way to get the ball rolling and really get the community excited about fresh local produce and Grow Appalachia.
The height of the 2011 gardening season

Congratulations to all the other sites on the completion of another year, we look forward to a new season and the opportunity to take Grow Appalachia to the next level in 2012!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grow Appalachia's impact at Red Bird Mission

Here at the Red Bird Mission we have gotten our harvest records in and cover crops out.
 We have been working on totaling  harvest records this week and the number of people impacted by the Grow Appalachia program.
It is amazing at the numbers we are coming up with. We had a total of 45 families this year. Including family members, people with whom they have shared and the locals in the community who have received seeds from the Grow Appalachia program an estimated 1200+ people have received assistance through this program. We have a fair estimation of 700 bushels of produce grown by participants alone, not counting the seeds donated to some 65 people in the community . This could bring that number  to well over 1000 bushels produced. That is a huge impact on this area where many of these people rely on boxed or canned foods distributed by Red Bird Mission’s community outreach department and other similar organizations. In addition the Red Bird Farmer’s Market also provided locals access to fresh healthy local grown produce at a lower price than most grocery  stores as well as giving participants a chance to earn some extra money in an economically deprived area.
This has been a very worthwhile, rewarding program .I personally have enjoyed being part of something I believe is a real benefit to such a large number of people in my community.

Field Worker
Chad Brock 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Harvesting Honey-- Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

       Many of the families involved in the Pine Mountain Grow Appalachia program are extremely interested in local agriculture and food production and they make every effort to expand their r food production in new and interesting ways. Sonny and Geneva, one such dedicated couple in the program, keep bees at their home and produce local honey. Last week as the temperatures threatened to below freezing, they invited me out to harvest the last batch of honey for the season. I have never been very afraid of bees, but I also cannot say I have ever enjoyed their company; however after this experience I am positively fascinated with beekeeping and the idea of local honey production.
     When I arrived to help with the harvest Sonny and Geneva were already dressed in their bee jackets and netted hats and quickly got me suited up in a full body bee suit, netted hat, and gloves. While opening the hives, pulling out racks of honey, and working the smoker, and I learned many things about beekeeping including the way in which bees produce honey, protect their hives, survive the winter, and always return to their same colony. I was also able to see how Sonny and Geneva extract honey from the racks, after they have taken them from the hives, so that it can be strained and put in jars.

a full capped rack of honey! 

     In addition to simply being fun and interesting, keeping bees and selling honey can be a very profitable endeavor, given you put in the necessary work. This summer we sold Sonny’s Honey at the farmers market and had a very successful selling season, all the honey we had sold quickly and those who missed out, or simply polished off their jar already, were back the next week asking for more. The demand for local honey seems to be on the rise, and understandably so. Local honey is a natural sweetener, it is known to help ease allergies, strengthen the immune system, act as a natural antiseptic, and most importantly, it just TASTES GOOD!
Sonny and Geneva do not try to contain their bees or control the areas in which they feed so they end up with a spectrum of honey from very dark to almost clear in color. All of the different strains have a slightly different flavor based on what the bees have been feeding on. This jar is one of the darker strains harvested in the late summer.
So go get yourself some local honey and thank the bees and beekeepers who are hard at work supplying us with the best source of sugar there is, HONEY!

Sweet Potatoes - Gary

We are cleaning up our raised beds at St Vincent Mission. Below we have pictures of our sweet potatoes harvested from one of the beds (12 slips). We harvested 3 pecks.

Also, as of Nov. 1st, I will no longer be the GA coordinator for St Vincent Mission, we have selected Kathy Curtis to head up our project for the coming year, more info later. It has been an enjoyable ride. Hope all goes well with each one this next year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Presentation on Farmer's markets and market vouchers at Redbird Mission

Participants of the Red Bird Grow Appalachia project attended a joint training with participants of the Red Bird Farmers project on September 15, 2011.  The UK Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent, Jeff Henderson and Cathy Howell, a SNAP Ed worker (teaches food and nutrition) presented an informative and inspiring presentation on Farmer’s Markets and market voucher programs.    The Jackson County Farmer’s Market is thriving with vendors and buyers.  Many pregnant and parenting mothers utilize WIC food vouchers at their market, and many senior citizens utilize senior farmers market nutrition program (SFMNP) coupons to purchase fresh, in season, nutritious fruits and vegetables. They also give out some vouchers using locally generated donations. 
With the help of the SNAP Ed worker, prepared samples are available for individuals to taste and enjoy and try new foods for the first time.  For our Grow Appalachia participants, there is a GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) training available on-line for growers to be certified to provide samples at the market.  The Kentucky Department of Agriculture can provide a Famers Market Sampling Certificate to allow growers to sell processed foods, baked goods, cooked samples, etc.
Go to:  go find the 2010/2011 Farmers Market Manual-go to the chapter on sampling. Contact: Sharon Spencer,  or Adam Watson to turn in your answers and get your certificate. 
This training opened our eyes to potential for our Farmer’s Market at Red Bird.  To boost vendor participation we are considering funding some food vouchers to the low income and elderly in our community to increase buyers at our market and this in turn will encourage farmers to come out knowing their will be revenue they can count on. 
Also shared at the training was information on the Jackson County Regional Food Center, which offers a fully equipped, licensed, shared-use kitchen. Go to for more details.  This resource could help our farmers test recipes, package foods, get product development and consulting assistance, and market value added products.
Last, they shared grant opportunities through KY Proud, the Farmers Market Association and encouraged seeking local business contributions to address the issue of poverty and hunger in our communities.  This provides income to local farmers and fresh foods to community members in need.
This was an excellent training for our community, I would highly recommend this training to other Grow Appalachia sites.    Tracy Nolan, Director of Community Outreach, Red Bird Mission