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."

Friday, April 10, 2015

It's Official!

Sprouting Hope is now an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization!

Sprouting Hope began with a strong foundation in 2012 as a partnership between Project Crossroads and the Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center. When one of our key leaders moved away from the area in 2014, we began work to establish an independent non-profit organization to ensure the sustainability of the program. We're very excited to have reached this milestone!

Last Spring we announced that Sprouting Hope's lease has been extended till 2031, a new perennial berry patch was added and a grant from Appalachian Sustainable Development funded planting a variety of fruit trees. We are making plans for the future!

This year garden development is focused on season extension to make the most of the growing season. We are fundraising to install two new hoop houses and acquire season extending supplies such as row cover fabric and hoops for creating low tunnels.

Sprouting Hope feeds the community by growing and sharing healthy food. Everyone is welcome so please check out the open hours for community volunteers (over on the right side of this page) and join us for a day of learning, sharing and fellowship!

Stay tuned for updates on programs and other learning opportunities! Check us out on Facebook or call Jason at (276) 780-0420 for more information.