As I walked out of our third meeting for the season Thursday night, I couldn’t help but sigh. Sigh in relief that the workshop was over; sigh in relief that we have so many wonderful participants in our program. Workshop week is always hectic around here! There are numerous tasks to accomplish, forms and information to print, and garden things buy to give out at the meeting. I’m almost certain we finish everything just as folks are walking in the door.
This week in particular felt more hectic than usual. Three people we usually have on hand to help us with the meetings couldn’t make it. Bobby, Becky, and Chad, our field coordinator, farmers market manager, and Extension Agent, respectively. Fortunately, a few of our aforementioned wonderful participants stepped in to help us.
The night started off with a steady flow of participants, some new, most old. The first 30 minutes were filled with chatter and people filling out surveys. We recently partnered with Community Farm Alliance (CFA) to conduct a Community Food System Assessment for Knott County. Jann Knappage with CFA was kind enough to come by our meeting and explain the purpose of the surveys and how they can benefit our participants as growers. When the assessment is over, we will essentially have a snapshot of the county’s food system. What people eat, where they shop, what they grow, and what isn’t grown but people want.
If we can find a gap in the market for our growers to fill, then we can hopefully provide them with a reliable source of income. Everyone grows tomatoes, beans, and corn as those are the most sought after produce. But what can we grow that people want, but have a hard time finding?
We also had an opportunity to show off some of the fun toys (tools) we’re acquiring! Toys we hope to put into a tool library so our participants can utilize them as well. We set up our newest toy in a demonstration next to the cole crops we gave out. One participant, Lori Gearheart, and her daughter (angels that they are) took time to make soil blocks and start eggplant and okra.
The other toy we showed off was the broadfork we acquired at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Conference! Jacob, Abby and I have already been using it in the garden on campus this month. We’ve decided it’s time to test out some no till methods so we can better help our participants.
All in all it was a crazy, wonderful evening. We gave out cole crops and seed potatoes, demonstrated soil blockers and explained the broadfork, had 7 new families sign up, and had some old families praise the program and attest to the importance of what we do and the great results they’ve seen. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people to work with!