Cass Community Gardeners gathered Sunday afternoon to cultivate their plots and start planting. Pictured: front: Zoe Guamis. Second row, from left: Alison Flegel, Kelley Moffat, Lola Guamis, Vega Guamis and Rita Guamis. Third row, from left: Gregory Moore and Nikki Alikakos. Not pictured: Shayla Bennett, Johnna Bennett, Kelli Tallman, Boone Tallman and Kaydance Waybright. Photo courtesy of Alison Flegel

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

’Tis the season to be growing, and a new group of gardeners are earning their green thumbs at the Cass Community Garden at The Burner Homeplace.

With the help of Grow Appalachia garden coordinator Kelley Moffat, The Burner Homeplace founder Alison Flegel excitedly offered the land for the community garden.

“She said, ‘how about we put in a community garden at The Burner Homeplace,’ and I was on the phone [hopping up and down], going, ‘yes, that’s a great idea!” Moffat said. “Home gardens are great, but community gardens are really cool because you get so many people in one place. You can teach people and then they can take what they learn and transfer it to their homes.”

Moffat, who is also coordinator of the Linwood and Valley Head community gardens said it is a lot easier to serve more gardeners when there is one place for them all to come together and learn and grow.

“The resources are limited, so if I had twenty home gardeners, to go to each person’s house is way more difficult than having twenty people here,” she said. “So this was completely Alison’s idea which I was super excited for, so we immediately got the wheels rolling.”
The garden has space for six family plots and one large kids’ plot where a group of kids can work together to plant and grow different vegetables.

Getting kids to eat vegetables is a struggle all parents can relate to and Moffat said she has learned a few tricks to get kids energized and intrigued by veggies, starting with the growing process.

“I just went to the Try This West Virginia Conference which was awesome because I did a breakout session on ‘If kids grow it, they will eat it,’” she said. “They talked about gardening with little kids and how to get them to be passionate about it, and being pest detectives. Applying that stuff, I think, is going to be really cool.”

The planting began last weekend and families are starting to sign up for their plots. There are a few more plots available right now and Moffat hopes they will be full soon.

“My goal is to get this started this year,” she said. “We’re a little bit behind schedule but not bad. I would say we probably still have three plots open. I think we’re going to do six family plots and then the rest is going to be a kid zone. Rather than give one kid one plot, it’s probably easier to have them work together.”

Grow Appalachia was founded in 2009 by John Paul Dejoria, a well-known philanthropist who is co-founder and owner of John Paul Mitchell Systems and Patron Tequila.

Dejoria collaborated with Berea College in Kentucky, and director David Cooke – a West Virginia native, a lifelong gardener and former West Virginia extension agent – to develop the program which helps Appalachians create sustainable food sources.

Those interested in one of the plots may contact Moffat at 304-572-4604 or by email at kelleymoffat@gmail.com or Flegel at 304-456-4250 or by email at aliflegel@hotmail.com