Growing Together: Building Community & Resilience Through Gardening

As the days get longer and springtime blossoms, gardeners across the region are gearing up for a new season of growth and potential. For many, however, the challenges of the past year have left them with uncertain prospects. Last July, severe flooding swept through the area, damaging homes, properties, and gardens. Many farmers lost much of their hard work and land to the forces of nature.
Despite the setbacks caused by the flood, families in the region can now look to the future with renewed optimism through Roots & Rows. Our program provides education and garden assistance to support 50 families in the region who want to grow their own food. The program held its first community meeting of the season on March 23rd, where returning and new participants came together. During the meeting, participants received free seeds and compost, but more importantly, they shared their losses and plans for their future garden spaces. They were reminded that they are not alone in their work, but part of a larger community of hardworking people who are passionate about agriculture.
Thanks to the generous donations from our seed shower and Amazon Wishlist, our program has received an abundance of seeds. With these seeds, participants can grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, which can provide not only fresh produce but also an opportunity to try new things. By sharing experiences and encouraging others to try new types and varieties, participants can broaden their horizons and expand their knowledge of food and gardening. This can lead to a greater appreciation of food and its role in our lives, as well as a deeper sense of community and connection with others who share their passion for growing their own food.
Grow Appalachia, through Berea College, in cooperation with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, donated compost to assist participants in re-establishing their gardens after the flood. Compost will assist our farmers in improving their soil structure and the health and overall productivity of their gardens. Our campus maintenance crew member, Nathan, assisted in loading compost for our farmers.
Following the community meeting, participants seemed to feel motivated to start their gardens, with some already underway. Throughout the growing season, we will continue to hold monthly meetings, and provide essential tools, plant starts, fertilizers, and pest control methods, to ensure successful harvests. The meetings will also serve as a gathering place for gardening conversations, including sharing successes and failures, progress reports, discussing harvests, exploring season extension, and sharing preserving techniques.
As the Foodways Program Director, I am thrilled to be a part of this group of dedicated growers who are committed to cultivating nutritious and tasty food for their families and promoting sustainable food practices that benefit the environment and the local economy. With the ongoing assistance of Roots & Rows, participants have the opportunity to develop their own food production skills and increase their self-reliance while also sharing their knowledge and expertise with others in the community. By working together, we can create a more robust and resilient community through gardening.