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.