West Virginia has a lot of small towns – those blink and you’ll miss them kind of towns. But there’s one in Pocahontas County trying to break that mold. A town looking to come together and be more than just another blink and miss it. That town is Linwood.
In just half a decade, Linwood has gone from being the town below Snowshoe Mountain Resort, to being a town with a library, daycare center, Farmers Market and much more.
Linwood continues to expand as people of all ages get into the gardening spirit.
It began last year with the Linwood Community Day Care garden. The school partnered with Grow Appalachia and created an interactive garden so the children could learn how to grow plants and how to cook with them.
This year, the community joined in the fun and created a community garden just down the road from the daycare.
“This year we got our own grant – we got a big grant,” Linwood Alive! chair Terry White said. “We got nineteen thousand dollars. The day- care gets their seeds and orders what they want. The participants [in the garden] have to do education in order to get what we call goodies. They get hoes and use of the canners and jars. That’s how we got to be a Grow Appalachia site.”
The daycare garden has expanded to include berry bushes, sunflowers, as well as a plethora of veggies and herbs. It also has a few fruit trees donated by Dunmore resident Charles Young, the former principal of Green Bank Elementary-Middle School.
“We got a grant for the fruit trees and he said, ‘I used to run a school, I know how hard money is to come by. You use your grant, and I’ll donate the trees,’” White said.
White, who is also the treasurer for the day care, said the garden has a little bit of everything to give the students a well-rounded experience with fruits, veggies and flowers.
“It’s not a ton of any one thing here,” she said. “They can see it from seed to table.”
Just down the road, the community garden was planted on land donated by Harvey Galford. It is sectioned off into individual plots for families, a large community plot and plots for the daycare.
Garden manager Kelsey Beverage helped design the garden and doles out plots to community members.
“We designed the plots to be ten by twenty feet originally and then we started thinking and everybody wanted a bigger spot, and more produce so we doubled it,” Beverage said. “They each got a fifteen by twenty plot. Then there is the potato patch. There are nine, ten foot potato sections divided among the personal plots.”
Starting the garden wasn’t too difficult, thanks in part to support from the community and other growers.
“Vada Wilson gave a ton of pots to us and that’s what we used to start all of our plants,” Beverage said. “Alderson from Greenbrier County, they started a bunch of plants in a greenhouse and they had way too many, so they donated their extras to us. And, of course, Harvey Galford donated us the land.”
The plots filled up quickly and have flourished this summer, despite the amount of rain the area received this year.
Along with being a place for the community to come together and grow food, the garden is a place for learning and fun.
In one part of the children’s section, two special gardens were inspired by a children’s book mentioned by community member Jennifer McGregor.
“These two plots were the two big kid play areas,” Beverage said. “It was a really cool concept. It was supposed to be a sunflower house. The sunflowers were going to be really tall and then the morning glories would vine up and be branched across the top so it would be like a plant tent.
“This is called a three sisters garden,” Beverage continued, in another section. “It’s corn and then beans, and then pumpkins. It’s all supposed to kind of depend on each other for vining purposes. It’s just some- thing cool. This was one of the mother’s ideas. She had a little Indian children’s book with two stories about the sunflower house and the three sisters garden. I said, ‘I’ll provide the space if you carry it out,” and she said it was perfect.”
The community garden has also caught the attention of some local seasoned growers who, despite having their own large gardens, plan to join in the fun next year.
“Tolly [Peuleche], our biggest vendor at the Farmers Market, who has her own huge farm, said there is stuff growing here that she can’t grow at her home and she will have a plot next year,” White said.
The Farmers Market, which sets up at the Linwood Community Library each Friday in the summer, has also grown since it has added the Linwood market to its roster.
To help the market and the community as a whole, the Linwood Alive! committee is in the process of building a large pavilion for the market, cookouts, the daycare and other events.
“We went to the Try This conference in Buckhannon this summer and we got a $2,600 grant for a commercial grill,” White said. “The guy who is doing the pavilion is a good friend of ours. He’s a local and I think he’s going to try to stretch that. He’s talking about doing an outdoor kitchen. He is also donating his labor in building the pavilion.”
Once the pavilion is complete it will be available for individuals who wish to use it for parties, along with being used by the daycare and Farmers Market.
“I’m excited,” White said. “If somebody wants to reserve it, a big group or something, we can. The Farmers Market is always going to have first choice. The kids this fall will play soccer out here and this will be perfect for the parents to sit here and watch their kids.”
The Farmers Market is grateful the community is creating a more permanent place for its vendors to sell their wares.
“This is a great show of support to us from the community,” Peuleche said. “We have the three markets and its nice to have a community do this for the market.”
The market tries to give back to the community as much as it can, and began a mentorship program last year for a high school student interested in farming and produce. Last year’s mentor was 2015 Pocahontas County High School graduate Kindra Carr.
This year’s mentorship student is from Tygarts Valley High School.
“This year nobody from Pocahontas County signed up for it, so I went to Tygarts Valley High School and a student there really wanted to do it,” Peuleche said. “He just fits right in and I’m delighted. He’s doing a great job. He takes care of statistics and data keeping. I really hope we keep this program going. It’s super important.”
For the first year, the Farmers Market raised $500 to support the mentorship program. This year, things changed – for the better.
“There’s this thing called the FMPP [Farmers Market Promotion Program] grant which is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and we’re doing it with three other counties – Bath, Highland and Pendleton,” Peuleche said. “It was part of the grant, but the other big thing was they liked what we did that first year with the mentorship program so well, that they wrote that into the grant. So the money is coming from that source this year.”
The FMPP is a two year grant which began this year. Peuleche hopes the market will be able to continue the mentorship program, as well as other programs it has added over the years.
“There’s nothing we want more,” she said. “We love the Junior Vendor program. That’s our favorite thing. Until school started, we had two pretty regular junior vendors here.”
Whether its the tykes learning to grow food for the first time or seasoned pros who share the fruits of their labor, the town of Linwood is excited to be growing.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org