Summer Recap

This summer was busy with lots of work and some fun mixed in there as well. The second year of the Lend-A-Hand Center Grow Appalachia Gardening program kept me busy with workshops, garden visits, and Thursdays at the Knox County Farmers’ Market. I also collected several amazing oral history interviews with Knox County residents. Here are some highlights from the summer:

June 6: Seedtime on the Cumberland- I attended my second Seedtime Festival at Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY. It was a great lineup and an amazing closing set from the Giant Rooster Sideshow.

June 16-17: Local Foods, Local Places workshop- One of the most exciting events of the summer for the LAHC Grow Appalachia program was participating in the “Local Foods Local Places” workshop held in Barbourville. Last year the community was awarded one of 26 grants nationwide to help develop the Knox County Farmers’ Market and work on promoting the local food system in the county. This day-and-a-half workshop brought together federal and community partners.

On the 16th we met with federal partners and had lunch at Union College. We then had a walking tour of Barbourville and an afternoon session. In the session we got to know each other and brainstormed challenges and opportunities with local foods in the area. We then had dinner at Romeo’s the new Italian restaurant in downtown Barbourville.

On the 17th, we looked at different case studies of communities that had been developing their local food system including Huntington, West Virginia; Tuskegee, Alabama; Youngstown, Ohio; and Williamson, West Virginia. We learned about different case studies and organizations doing a variety of local food initiatives. We then did a mapping exercise in which we plotted places in the county that may be considered assets, opportunities, or needs relating to local foods.

In the last part of the workshop we worked on five different goals. The goals were:

  • Evaluate options for a location for seasonal and mobile farmers market.
  • Identify sustainable model for farmers’ market organization, finance and governance.
  • Seek opportunities to expand use of local food in local businesses and institutions and sale of local foods to local customers.
  • Expand access to local foods by making it affordable and available at local markets through programs such as SNAP, WIC and EBT.
  • Leverage local food network to support economic and community development through connections to youth, development of food-related businesses and promotion of tourism.

Based on the brainstorming during the workshop we will have an action plan of implementation of these goals which is currently being finalized. We are looking forward to sharing the complete action plan and moving forward with some exciting initiatives in the county.

June 24: ARC Visit- The Knox County Farmers’ Market board had a visit from officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Earl Gohl, ARC Federal Co-chair and Guy Land, ARC Chief of Staff visited Barbourville and met with our board. We toured downtown and briefed them on the workshop that happened the week before. We shared with them about the Grow Appalachia program and the great local foods initiatives we are planning for the future.

July 10-11: ASA Steering Committee Meeting- The Steering Committee of the Appalachian Studies Association met at Shepherd University in beautiful Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It was great touring the campus and visiting with some amazing scholars and activists. Much of our time was spent with committee reports and doing the business of the Association. Jordan Laney and I as the student representatives gave updates on the Y’ALL (Young Appalachian Leaders & Learners) committee.

I was also subject to an “academic challenge” from Meredith Doster to one day interview Dolly Parton. Stay tuned for progress on that project.

Aug. 8: Dolly Parton- No I did not interview her but my family and I did see her in concert at Dollywood, the most wonderful place in the world. She put on an amazing show. Proceeds benefited Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library which provides books for children around the world.

Aug. 13-16: It’s Good to Be Young in the Mountains– IG2BYITM was an amazing event and I am so happy to have been a part of this gathering of young people from the region. I facilitated the “Local Foods Panel” which brought together farmers, gardeners, restaurant owners, farmers’ market promoters, consumers, students, and more to talk about the state of local foods in Appalachia. We discussed people’s organizations and experiences and barriers and opportunities for local foods in the region. We also discussed how “Appalachian food” might be defined.

Other panels considered educational issues, personal finance, sex ed, grant writing, and the freelance economy. There were excursions to places of interest in Harlan County as well as skill based-workshops and arts projects. We mapped power in our communities and shared our stories. Documentaries from the Appalachian Media Institute and the After Coal project showed the diversity and future possibilities of the region. One panel highlighted the work of the STAY Project and ongoing youth-driven initiatives. A performance of the community drama Higher Ground and an amazing performance from Roots & Wings from Louisville explored tough issues communities throughout the state face.

My friend Ivy Brashear has written an excellent summary and reflective piece about the event available on the Renew Appalachia website here.

IG2BYITM was an wonderful way to close out the summer. Honestly it was amazing to be in the same place as so many good friends and all the movers-and-shakers in the region today. I am sure there will be more conversations to be had, music to be played, and drinks to be shared. I can’t wait till the next time.

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