Reflections

     Last week, during the keynote address at Keeneland, two tremendous Kentuckians talked about the value of local food. Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, Ryan Quarles spoke of the importance of Kentucky Agriculture and the small farm while renowned chef, Ouita Michel eloquently discussed the importance of the Foodways work at Hindman Settlement School. Both were tremendous talks that provoked thought on our accomplishments as a program.

     It was a little over two years ago when I journeyed to Hindman, excited for the opportunity to continue my work of developing local food systems in Eastern Kentucky. A few years prior, after leaving a career in Extension, I worked as the East Kentucky Farm to Table Coordinator for Community Farm Alliance. There, I immersed myself in developing a farm to school program and a local campaign to bring light to Eastern Kentucky Agriculture. It was important work, and I was delighted to continue that here at Hindman Settlement School. 

A photo of various peppers that have been harvested through our Foodways Program at Hindman Settlement School.

     In a short amount of time, we have accomplished a great deal. Our staff works tirelessly to run a market farm, farmers market, and other agricultural and wellness programs, educating members of the community on aspects of healthy foods and sustainability. Our production methodology is becoming more solidified and Corey Terry, our Farm Manager, is producing more and more on our farms. This year, on small acreage, he has produced over thirty-five thousand dollars worth of product, supplying 27 CSA shares to families in Knott County and 10 free shares to the housing authority!

     Additionally, our Farmers Market is growing on all measures. In 2019, we saw a 40% increase in customers, with 26 individual vendors, and over $16,500 in sales. This year, we began to accept SNAP/EBT, WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program Vouchers, and through the gracious support from Community Farm Alliance, were able to double those dollars through the Kentucky Double Dollars Program! Our Senior Farmers Market program was by far the most successful we have had to date, with over 70% of the vouchers redeemed. The market also hosted Tuesday on Troublesome every other week which featured live music, food vendors, and a great time for those who came out to join us.

     A true catalyst for change in our local food system has been our educational programs, Agrilachia and Grow Appalachia. These two programs are in partnership with Berea College, and they focus on Appalachian food culture, teaching community members how to grow and sustain food for themselves, while also educating people on how to prepare and preserve food in healthy processes. Just in 2019, we worked with nearly 60 families through Grow Appalachia and produced over 10 tons of food. Also, our team and partners hosted 10 workshops which produced close to 500 instructional hours. Through these efforts, our families are learning to use their land, be it large or small, for productivity and to put food on their own plates and in their own pantries.

     We still have a long way to go to in order to create a truly thriving food system. At times, I find myself lost and overwhelmed with what is left to do, but days like last Friday, discussing what has happened through our efforts thus far made it clear to me that we are already making a difference, and that difference is worthwhile!

–Ready to support our endeavors? Don’t forget to reserve your Holiday Box! We have nine different boxes to choose from (wow!), and all proceeds go toward supporting your local Foodways Program at Hindman Settlement School. You can reserve your box today at hindmansettlement.org/holidaybox