Sunday, November 1, 2015

Connecting the Dots: Broad Community Based Approach to Strengthening Our Food System

Nearly 100 organizations from the public, private, and non-profit sectors gathered today to take steps in building capacity throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia as a follow up to our initial meeting in April. The holistic approach to making positive change in our food system started with a presentation by Dr. Randy Wykoff on the health, social, and economic challenges of our region and how food interconnects to these issues. Central Appalachia suffers disproportionately from lower life expectancy and other basic quality of life and health indicators compared to the rest of the country. Historically the first response is to increase medical care for the region but we are learning that a lack of medical care is not the biggest problem. According to Dr. Wykoff’s research, it is social and behavioral influences.

This framed our conversation around how we can collaborate to reverse these trends through our food system. The discussion focused on the following five areas:
1. Food Access: Improving access to healthy, fresh, and local food options for all members of our community. Involved groups: community gardens, food banks, food pantries, growers, public health, transportation, NGOs, Department of Human Services, schools
2. Food Production, Marketing, and Distribution: Connecting growers to local and regional markets for their products. Involved groups: growers, buyers of food, agricultural professionals, NGOs, government entities
3. Food and Health Systems: Promoting and increasing access to locally grown, healthy food to healthcare recipients. Involved groups: hospital foundations, public health, clinics, nursing homes, retirement communities, accountable care organizations
4. Policy and Economic Development: Creating and advocating for better policies to support our regional food system and economy. Involved groups: economic development boards, chamber of commerce, state and federal entities, politicians and/or staff, schools and other organizations with food regulations to promote locally-grown food
5. Workforce Development and Education: Creating opportunities and training for an entrepreneurship-minded food and agriculture workforce. Involved groups: high schools, vocational, higher education, workforce investment boards, economic development, chambers of commerce, NGOs who are training young people, reentry programs
Each of these five areas developed into working groups to lead the effort within the corresponding sectors while connecting the work to the larger picture through the many intersections between theses areas of focus.
Sprouting Hope participated primarily in the Food Access and Food Production, Marketing and Distribution working groups. While the groups involved a great diversity of participants at all levels from grassroots to institutional, common themes emerged with an understanding that our approach must be community based and appropriate on the local level. Three major next steps for our working groups are increased communication and collaboration among stakeholders, training and educational programs, and separate meetings among the working groups along with a large gathering before May.

Antoinette Goodrich, Farmer at Laughing Water Farm, felt today’s event was also a “great opportunity to network with others.” The purpose of these events are primarily to build capacity and forge new connections. While the nuts and bolts of our work together is still in development, we do know that if we are going to creating lasting positive change in our food system, we must work together.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Conference Works to Break the Cycle of Poverty through Empowerment

“Ministry WITH the Poor, Serve Act Learn” was the theme for the Poverty Summit organized by the Holston Conference and hosted by the First United Methodist Church (FUMC). Sprouting Hope was one of the participating organizations along with a Firewood Ministry, Low Income Housing Rehabilitation, Marion Elementary, Helping Hands Thrift Store, FUMC Food Pantry, and congregations throughout the region.

Working WITH and not FOR folks in poverty is slow, challenging work but if our ambitions are to truly break the cycle of poverty and move toward empowered self-sufficiency, this is the work we must be doing. This work requires a participatory framework that gives dignity and value to people living in poverty.

The two day conference began with a day of service on Friday August 28th and a day of learning on Saturday August 29th with keynote by Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball. On Friday volunteers at the garden planted Brassica transplants and harvested nearly 10 gallons of beans. After inspiring and practical information at the Saturday workshops, participants were encouraged to develop programs in their own communities based successes and struggles shared by the partnering organizations. One life-long resident of Marion, Virginia shared “I have renewed hope in the community that we can achieve long-lasting positive change.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Summer Update: Programs for Diabetic Youth, Food Insecure, More

Distributing hundreds of pounds of produce to people receiving food assistance, hosting a day camp for children with type one diabetes, flooding in our potato patch, youth education programs, and selling our own honey are just some of our activities this past month. The weather is fantastic, people are excited, and the garden is thriving!
We have harvested a ton and a half of produce to date, much of which in the last month. Anyone that comes to the garden and volunteer shares in the harvest with a focus on participation from folks receiving food assistance. Most of what we grow is donated to the local food pantries, soup kitchens, senior center and free clinic. Harvesting now: tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, zucchini, beets, okra, potatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs!

Sprouting Hope along with the Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center and Smyth County Community Hospital hosted our first youth type one diabetes day camp with funding from Climb for a Cure. The camp included boating, hiking, nutrition education, team building, and of course gardening and cooking! A huge success, we plan to organize an overnight camp for next year.

Too much of a good thing! We had serious flooding like many of the folks in the Grow Appalachia network. Our potato patch was covered in standing water for days and disease flooded into the garden with the monsoon weather. Thankfully the rain has tapered off toward the end of July. Here’s the road flooded out in front of our potato patch.

Last week we harvested our first batch of honey from our bee hives, 19 pints of Black Locust Honey! We sold them at the Farmers’ Market for $10 a pint as a fundraiser for the garden and sold out. We plan to harvest more in the fall.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bean, Potato and Cucumber Beetles! Oh My!

When preventative organic methods haven’t sufficed and summer pests have you screaming Lions, Tigers, and Bears! Oh My! It can be challenging to sift through the plethora of information online to find an effective control strategy. The Mexican Bean Beetle, Cabbage Looper and Cucumber Beetle are the most notorious bugs at Sprouting Hope. Learn what to do to keep these pests under control.

Mexican Bean Beetles

This photo shows the life cycle of the beetle from egg to adult. They lay their eggs under the bottom of the leaves making spraying difficult. In the past we have tried squashing them, introducing predators, and using a variety of organic sprays including neem, insecticidal soap, and pyganic. This year we released one thousand parasitic mini-wasps to provide a biological control through a predator-pray relationship. The wasps, Pediobius foveolatus, prey predominately on the bean beetle and occasionally on the cucumber beetle which we will discuss more later. They don’t prey on beneficial natives and they do not over-winter. Learn more about this effective strategy from the New Jersey Beneficial Insect Laboratory. You can order the parasitic wasps from the New Jersey lab by calling 609-530-4192.

Cabbage Loopers

The most effective way to keep your Brassicas protected, or any plant protected, is to cover them to provide a physical barrier but all that row cover can get expensive. The next best option is spraying Bacillus thuringiensis, or commonly known as BT. This bacteria is an organic, biological control that will kill loopers along with other pests but not hurt your bees and other beneficial. The spray is available at most garden stores.

Cucumber Beetles

The cucumber beetle eats tender young leaves and spreads diseases in cucurbits including squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. They are easy to find and spray because they are attracted to the yellow flowers of these plants. Sometimes I can find ten in a single bloom. I typically spray them with pyganic but I know there are several others that work. Another effective strategy is to place yellow sticky traps around the garden. Try making them yourself with yellow water-resistant paper and glue to save money.

Monday, June 22, 2015

It’s ALL Good: Using the Rest of the Plant

There is an abundance of food all around us. Some of it is even getting discarded in the compost pile without even realizing it is food. This time of the year, two of my favorites might be skipped over by other gardeners: garlic scapes and beet greens! Let us take a closer look at how we use them in the kitchen.

Our organic gardening and nutrition education class for the Family Fitness Challenge in Saltville was just the other week. In addition to making our own potting soil and transplanting herbs into pots, we cooked with produce from the garden and introduced folks to a few herbs. Our first, very simple recipe utilized those garlic scapes.

Basic Herb Pesto - just blend it all together!
1 cup fresh herbs (cilantro or basil)
2-3 Garlic scapes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (adjust to get the right paste-like consistency in the blender)
Salt and pepper to taste

To help increase fruit and vegetable consumption, we used spaghetti squash to sample pestos with this basic recipe using different herbs. Spaghetti squash is a fantastic alternative to regular spaghetti with all the nutritional benefits of being a vegetable. It also is one of the longest storing winter squashes in my experience; these made it almost ten months! I cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, cover with oil or butter, and bake for 30-45 minutes on 350 degrees. I like to use olive oil because it has a healthier fat profile than other options and adds great flavor. Just scrape the squash out with a fork, mix in the pesto, and enjoy!

I love using cilantro in this recipe not just for the flavor but also the health benefits and ease of growing. It self-sows well and produces the whole growing season. A couple tablespoons a day can also help with cleansing heavy metals.

Beet Greens are another great green to steam, saute, or cook just like kale, collards, etc. The baby greens are also great in salads and eaten fresh. Don't let these delicious foods go to waste!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Libby

The true backbone of the success of Sprouting Hope has always been and always will be our volunteers. To help show this, let us introduce some of our outstanding, dedicated, and inspiring volunteers that make our garden what it is. I am delighted to feature my good friend Libby as our first volunteer spotlight! I plan to interview a couple other volunteers this year; stay posted!

How did you get involved with the garden?

"I meet Jason at Food and Fellowship and got some food and a pamplet. I asked if I could help!"

What first attracted you to get involved?

"Being with good people, with community and raising vegetables that I knew was healthy. I can't afford all those vegetables that are in the grocrey store. The garden enables me to get them. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to get them very often. That is what the garden is for!"

How long have you been involved in the garden?

"A year."

How have you become more involved in the management of the garden? What committee(s) do you serve on?

"I'm a member of outreach committeee and I went to all the meetings to form a partnership with the State Hospital."

What is your favorite vegetable?


Tell me about your favorite garden experiences.

"Harvesting tomatoes! Washing vegetables and spashing friends in the process. The commoradory. Helping others like seniors and low income people, like myself. Showing that we're of value!"

What would you tell someone who has never been to the garden to get them to come join us?

"If you want to have friends, fellowship, and reap the benefits of a good garden, this is the place to do it! It really is!"

Anything else to add?

"When I'm out there, I'm at peace. I'm with God; I have no worries."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Defining a Equitable Food Distribution System

One of the most common questions we hear is, "where does all the produce go?" Here is our food distribution plan.

Sprouting Hope Community Garden provides fresh produce in a fair way that ensures that people volunteering in the garden and people who are unable to garden themselves have fair access to healthy food.

The garden is divided into two sections: program group space and community space. The program group sections are managed by the program coordinator and the participating program groups. All food grown in these sections is distributed directly to the program participants after harvest. Program groups are encouraged to develop a fair system for diverse dietary interests and for irregular participation in the program. Program groups should be given the opportunity to donate some of their produce to the community through the avenues mentioned below. Program participants may also volunteer and receive produce from the community section.

The produce from the community garden space will be distributed in two ways:
  • Garden Volunteers: All volunteers in the garden may take a fair portion of the harvest each time they volunteer, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Sprouting Hope seeks to involve and serve low income communities and outreach efforts should be made to ensure this. All volunteers are encouraged to take food for family and friends. Volunteers who help in the beginning of the season but are unable to volunteer during the prime harvest period may have access to a fair share.
  • People in Need: At no cost, people in need of fresh, healthy produce may share the harvest through the following channels. Sprouting Hope may bring produce to different places each week and quantity will vary seasonally.
    • FUMC Food Pantry, 115 S Church Street, 11:30am, 3rd Thursday of the month
    • The Senior Citizen’s Center, 307 S Park St, 11:30am, Tuesday, Thursday, & Friday
    • Food & Fellowship 115 S Church Street 11:30am, every Thursday
    • Impact International Food Pantry 704 S Main St, 4pm, 4th Saturday of the month
    • Smyth County Free Clinic 1583 N Main St, along with nutrition education
    • Church Leaders may distribute produce to members of their congregation in need
    • Occasional Events such as the Marion Farmers’ Market and nutrition education programs

Monday, May 18, 2015

Examining Cuba's Radically Different Food System

Sprouting Hope's Program Coordinator, Jason Von Kundra, visited Cuba in November 2013 as part of a delegation studying organic agriculture and cooperatives organized by Via Organica, the Center for Global Justice, and the Center for Martin Luther King, Jr. in Havana. Here Jason shares his experience and vision for a healthy community.
Written on the wall at a cattle farm just outside Havana is "Las Ideas Pueden Mas Que Las Armas," or "Ideas Are Greater Than Weapons." With a long history of conflict between the US and Cuba, it may seem an unlikely place for the United States to turn to for ideas but Cuba could hold the key to solving our broken food system. While the US makes unhealthy, processed foods affordable through a complex system of food subsidies and large-scale distribution, Cuba does the exact opposite by making fresh fruits, vegetables, and eggs the most affordable, leaving the unhealthy processed food a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. But how?
The US blockade effectively prevented any foreign corporation who did business in the United States from doing business in Cuba. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost access to fossil fuels and many other goods. No oil meant no food and very little options for imports. Cuba went through the Special Period, a difficult time when the average Cuban lost about twenty pounds due to food shortages.
Out of necessity, they pulled together to start growing their own food without fossil fuels. Former state-owned sugar farms that were used for exports quickly transitioned to UBPCs (Basic Units of Cooperative Production) which are autonomous agricultural cooperatives that helped feed the country through small scale local food systems. With this history, Cuba places great value in food sovereignty and organic agriculture today.
Cuba's two currency system is also largely responsible for why produce is affordable and processed foods are expensive. The peso nacional is used to purchase necessities and other standard goods that are primarily produced domestically through a planned economy. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is used to buy imports and for the tourist economy. Most Cubans get all the food they need at Farmers Market paying very affordable prices with the peso nacional. At Supermarkets, processed food may be purchased with the more expensive CUC. The average Cuban working on a state salary makes about 20 CUCs a month and a can of Pringles costs 4.50 CUCs!
The US food system is the opposite. According to the Washington Post "taxpayers heavily subsidize corn and soy, two crops that facilitate the meat and processed food we’re supposed to eat less of, and do almost nothing for the fruits and vegetables we’re supposed to eat more of. If there’s any obligation to spend the public’s money in a way that’s consistent with that same public’s health, shouldn’t it be the other way around?"

In my previous blog I discussed the importance of involving poor communities. With our current food system, the poor are affected the most by expensive healthy food and cheap processed food. Now that Cuban-US relations are thawing, we can look to Cuba as an example for a food system prioritizing public health and a better future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Funding a Second Hoop House

Sprouting Hope is building two hoop houses (a low cost style of greenhouse) this year starting with the first build this Saturday! An enormous thanks for a generous donation from United Way of Southwest Virginia and a grant from So Delicious Dairy Free which each cover the cost of the building materials for one hoop house. Grow Appalachia is providing technical support and additional costs including irrigation and fencing. Without the generous support of all three organizations, this expansion would simply not be possible.
We are incredibly blessed to be able to move forward with our season extension plans this year to significantly increase our productivity. The hoop houses will extend our growing season by an additional three months to allow us to grow lettuce and other crops year round. We plan to grow tomatoes in both hoop houses on a three year rotation to benefit from the warmth and protect from disease. Grow Appalachia partner, the Laurel County African American Heritage Center, grew a whopping 1,200 pounds of tomatoes last year in a hoop house with the same design.

Join us this Saturday, May 16th starting at 9am to build our first hoop house with the help of Mark and Holly from Grow Appalachia. Learn about their tried and true hoop house design that is ideal for small farms, homesteads, and large home gardens. Volunteers will be needed throughout the day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Developing a Regional Strategy for a Robust Food System

"The more organized we are, the more effective we will be" was a theme of today's meeting to build resource capacity and develop a regional strategic plan for Eastern Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The scope of the discussion was as extensive as our complex food system: nutrition education, local food hubs, community gardens, food access, community service, food pantries, healthcare and more.

More than thirty people participated, representing a diversity of actors in the food system. Through a partnership of the Central Appalachian Network and the Appalachian Funders' Network, the Food System Working Group was formed bringing together Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), Rural Resources and Appalachian RC&D (ARC&D) to help lead the efforts. Now the project is funded by a grant from the Rural Community Development Initiative. Several Grow Appalachia partners sites were there including Sprouting Hope, ASD, Rural Resources, and Build it Up Tennessee. Other groups included the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Harvest of Hope, Rural Development, Healthy Kingsport, and the USDA Farm Service Agency.

By building a strong network involving a diversity of stakeholders, investors will be more attracted to our region and to support our collaborative efforts. The more efficient we are, the greater our impact, and funders understand that.

Some collaborative projects that were highlighted during the meeting:
  • Local Food Promotion Program is a partnership between ARC&D, ASD and JBO to help farmers gain access to markets and increase consumer demand for local foods.
  • Veggie Rx is a successful program idea from Wholesome Wave that we hope to bring to provide resources for healthcare providers to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to patients with diet-related illnesses.
  • Healthy Kingsport provides free nutritional education, health care diagnostics and preventative care.
  • The Smyth County Virginia Nutrition Action Network's Family Fitness Challenge provides medical diagnostics, fitness programming, nutritional education, and gardening classes for children and their parents in rural areas of the county.
The next step is a visioning meeting in the near future to further develop several working groups that will concentrate on specific components of the food system. Please email Jason at if you would like to participate in the upcoming visioning meeting.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Spring Garden Tour

Spring has officially arrived with warm days, cool nights, and plenty of rain. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers who have come out for our three work days so far this year, we are kicking it into high gear. Here's a quick tour of what has been going on in the garden and what we have planted!
Honey Bees
Honey Bees
Thanks to Chris Stevens, with the Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center, we now have two hives out at the garden this year to increase productivity of our vegetables and help fund the garden with honey sales. Chris will be maintaining the hives and look forward to some bee keeping lessons at the garden this year!
Donated Greenhouse
Donated Greenhouse
Also new this year, Helen and Pete Conley have donated their pop-up greenhouse for us to grow squash, cucumber, and other starts.
The garden has 72 annual beds that are about three feet wide and twenty feet long. We have about a quarter of the garden planted now for spring crops.
Overwintered Kale
Overwintered Kale
Overwintered Spinach
Overwintered Spinach
With the help of row cover, we were able to keep Spinach, Collards, Kale and a few other greens through the winter for early spring harvesting.
Black Seeded Simpson
Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Head Lettuce from transplants
Head Lettuce from transplants
We just transplanted five beds of broccoli and cabbage!
Young Beets
Young Beets
Our blueberries, raspberries, and asparagus are part of a memorial perennial section of the garden in honor of Reverend Bowman and others in the community who have passed but live on through our community through their persisting impact.
Thornless Raspberries
A couple new rows of raspberries planted in April.
Second year asparagus bed
Looking forward, we have plowed and tilled the soil where our hoop house will be built on May 16th!
Future site of Hoop House
Future site of Hoop House

Monday, May 4, 2015

Spreading Out Your Harvest

Well spaced harvests throughout the year is crucial for market gardeners selling at weekly Farmers' Markets, CSAs and community gardens like ours. Volunteers at Sprouting Hope are invited to share in the harvest and having something to share is important to keep volunteers coming. This year we harvested turnips, spinach, kale, and collards at our first volunteer day of the season on March 14th using season extension techniques. We plan to utilize succession planting throughout the season to avoid gluts and shortages. Lets look at these practices more in depth.

Extending your season into the cold months involves the right choice of vegetables and material covers. Root vegetables such as beets, turnips, and Jerusalem artichokes can be grown during the cool fall season and harvested in the winter. Just like greens, these root vegetables sweeten with the freezing weather and store well in the ground throughout even January and February. Some of the most cold hardy greens such as spinach, tat soi, and other Asian greens can survive without cover through winter if established in the late fall. As spring begins, growth picks back up after winter dormancy allowing for early harvesting in March and April. Using row cover, cold frames, hoop houses and other material covers allows for more crops to overwinter such as lettuces and brassicas.

Succession planting is a technique of spreading out your seeding and transplanting to spread out your harvests. A few different strategies are consistent time spacing, following plant indicators, using growing degree days, and making a site specific calendar. The simplest way is to consistently space out the timing of plantings by a few weeks, with a shorter duration for plants with a short harvest window and a longer duration for plants with a long harvest window.

Listening to your plants is another method. Some gardeners wait until they see the first set of true leaves on their bean plants to start the next succession.

A third method is using growing degree days. Degree days is a tool that measures cumulative temperatures throughout the growing season. Check out the Growing Degree Days app by Farm Progress to track growing degree days in your area.

The last and I believe most effective method is making a site specific calendar. The days to harvest listed on seed packets are determined by a spring planting with average to ideal conditions. Earlier plantings will typically have longer windows to harvest and later plantings will have shorter windows to harvest. Therefore if you want to spread out your first harvest date for your crop of beans by two weeks, you may plant three weeks apart in the beginning of the season and one week apart late in the season. By keeping records of planting dates and first harvest dates, try plotting this with your planting date on the x axis and first harvest date on the y axis. Plot points from year to year to increase accuracy and make a line of best fit with these points to determine the best time to plant to harvest on a certain day. Using these techniques can help spread out your harvests to provide consistent production and happy customers and volunteers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Family Fitness Challenge is Expanding to Saltville

The Family Fitness Challenge is an innovative, wellness program for qualifying families to engage in a variety of fitness and nutrition activities including cooking classes, gardening workshops, healthy grocery shopping on a budget, free blood work, physical exercise and games. After two successful programs in Chilhowie and Sugar Grove, we are expanding to Saltville! The classes will be held Monday nights 6:00-7:30pm April 27th through May 18th at the Saltville First Church of God. Call 496-5242 to sign up. Enrollment is up to 15 families, one parent and one child ages five to fifteen.

The Nutrition Action Network is organizing the program as a network of community leaders. Sprouting Hope will be teaching participants about organic gardening techniques, the benefits of buying locally, the basics of cooking with herbs, and sharing affordable recipes using produce in season.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Building a Hoop House May 16th!

When millions in funding didn't come in from Richmond, Sprouting Hope's plans to build two "high tunnel" hoop houses looked bleak. The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has helped thousands of farmers increase their yields and extend their growing season by funding the construction of high tunnels. Unfortunately, this year only about a quarter of the requested $50 million was awarded for EQIP projects and Sprouting Hope's request wasn't funded.

As our hopes for a spring hoop house diminished, we were surprised to hear the good news that United Way in Abingdon wants to fund one hoop house! With this support for the cost of materials for the hoop house and Grow Appalachia's support including technical assistance, our plans are coming to fruition. Mark your calendars! We plan to build the hoop house on May 16th.

A huge thanks to United Way for their generosity and support. Our organizations are collaborating on a community garden United Way is building in Saltville as part of a community activity center. We look forward to our growing partnership.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Low Cost Deer Fence at Emory & Henry’s Garden

Last week Sprouting Hope helped the Emory & Henry College Organic Garden start to build a low cost deer fence modeled after our own. We built ours in 2012 with help from Virginia Cooperative Extension. This post details everything you need to know about building this effective and affordable fence.

Most of the parts we used were bought from Tractor Supply but you can find these materials most anywhere. The electric fence tape is designed for horses, so it's highly visible and should be less likely to end up with an animal tangled up in it. The fence controller was a special order, and we had to purchase the battery (a simple car battery) for it separately. The fence tape has a limited life expectancy of a few years due to UV damage.

The fence controller is made by Gallagher. If you have 110 Volt power available at your site, there are much cheaper options. We initially tried using a much smaller solar fence charger but it wasn't powerful enough.

The fence design was adapted from some information from Virginia Tech Extension, which we were directed to by our local extension agent, Andy Overbay. We added the solar lights to make it more visible for humans at night and added chicken wire after the first season to keep the rabbits out.

Our initial budget (2012 pricing from Tractor Supply) was:

(4) 656 ft long 1/2 inch electric fence tape @ $33 each = $132
(6) gate handles @ $1.79 each = $10.74
(1) 8 ft ground rod = $18
(2) electric fence signs @ $6.49 each = $12.98
(6) jumpwires @ $4.49 each = $26.94
(1) Polytape to energizer = $3.49
(1) 25 pack T-post polytape insulator = $8.99
(24) step-in plastic posts @ $2.49 each = $59.76
(20) 6 ft metal T-posts @ 4.29 each = $85.80

We also ended up using step-in posts and larger T posts on the corners of the outside runs, so I don't think that budget quite covers what we built, but it was probably pretty close.

We later changed out most of the gate handles for a metal gate on wooden posts. We were finding that the multiple gate handles was too complex and was leading to the fence sometimes being left in an open/un-energized state but this would be less of a problem with a smaller number of people using the gate.

Now... if we can just figure out a way for the fence to keep out the crows!

Monday, April 13, 2015

All Communities Deserve Healthy Food

Bustling Farmers Markets, farm to table restaurants, boxes of organic vegetables delivered to your home; this has become the dominate face of our food movement. But is this model working for everyone? Who is being left out of the picture?

Original print by Debra Riffe 
(apologies for the poor photograph
of her beautiful work!)
The double SNAP dollars and efforts for more fresh produce at food pantries, are getting more nutrient dense, healthy foods to the people who need it most. However if this is all we are doing, we fall short. "We ask for dignity, not for charity," Pope Francis told the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Humans have a “right to food, right to life and dignified existence.” I believe this dignity comes from harvesting your own food after a long day's work. This dignity comes from having your voice respected. The time is now to give poor communities a place at the table, empowerment, and the opportunity to grow their own food.

Urban low income communities are giving a different face to our movement. New Roots in Louisville, KY is creating Fresh Stops where leaders from some of the poorest communities manage local CSAs that are based on your ability to pay. Will Allen in Milwaukee, WI is empowering folks from the inner city to grow an abundance of food in abandoned city lots and on rooftops.

The rural poor need a place in this movement too and Grow Appalachia understands that. John Paul DeJoria, who created and funds the program, was homeless when he co-founded Paul Mitchell. That humble background and his current philanthropy has taught me a lesson about what humanity really is and how our class should never influence the dignity we all deserve. New to the Grow Appalachia network, Sprouting Hope is focused on not only serving, but also empowering, low income communities to gain access to fresh, organic produce. People from across the socioeconomic spectrum come together as equals to grow their own food and donate much of what they grow to people in need that are unable to garden themselves.

As the high end market develops for organic, local, all natural, hormone-free, low-income-customer-free food, we must remember that all communities must be included in this movement for us to succeed. Cesar Chavez realized this when he did the impossible: organizing thousands of immigrant farm workers, poor and marginalized, to be a great force that has forever changed labor relations between farm owners and workers. What "I want more than anything else, I would like to see the poor take a very direct part in shaping society and let them make the decisions. And in our case, if the poor are not involved then change will never come."