At its first organizational meeting of the season, the Linwood Community Garden members may not have been out planting rows, but they were growing ideas.
In its fifth year as a Grow Appalachia funded garden, Linwood has expanded and is bursting at its seams with returning and new members, to the point where organizers Terry and Steve White, and garden coordinator Alissa Doss are looking to expand the boundaries of the garden, as well as get participants to grow home gardens.
“I think the community garden is pretty much full,” Terry said. “That’s a bad thing to say – I don’t want to turn anybody away – but we are going to encourage home gardens, too. Here, it’s so tough if you’ve got people who live up on top of the hill or if they live on the side of the hill – not everybody here has a perfect spot for gardening, but we’re going to try.”
As part of the first meeting, participants were asked to make a “wish list” of seeds to grow this season to ensure there is plenty of variety for everyone to enjoy. Terry said that while Grow Appalachia funds the seeds, it’s hard to meet everyone’s wishes, mainly because there are so many plants out there.
“We can’t go buying hundreds of different varieties of this, that and the other, but Steve has done a lot of research over the last couple years of which varieties work best with what we’ve got to work with and with our season,” Terry said. “[Grow Appalachia] wants you to be organic.”
“We try to stay organic as much as possible with seeds and plants,” Steve added. “They’re not genetically modified like a lot of stuff is.”
Along with providing plots, seeds and tools, the organization is also required to provide at least six classes for its participants and the community as a whole. The classes are all related to the garden, whether it be maintenance of the plants or what to do with them once they are grown and ready to take home.
“We have to have six educational classes, and that will include composting and canning, heart healthy recipes and season extension,” Terry said.
“Garden maintenance and how to clean your tools,” Steve added. “That’s my specialty.”
The organization works with the WVU Extension Service to help provide specific classes for the season.
“Some of the classes we can teach because we’ve done it over and over, but when it comes to canning, we can’t do that,” Terry said. “We talked to Greg Hamons, and he’s going to do our composting and spraying class, so we work closely with Extension.”
The Whites are excited about the addition of coordinator Doss, who joined this year, because not only is she a hard worker with a passion for gardening, but she comes with two helpers – daughter Jaylee and boyfriend David Ping.
Doss has worked in the food service industry for years at Snowshoe Mountain Resort and said she has always wanted to have time to work outside more, so the coordinator position is ideal for her.
“I’ve been waiting tables for years,” she said. “I wanted to do something different – be outside more.
I’m excited to take some of the classes. I’ve always wanted to learn to can. I’m pretty excited to learn as well as try to lead.”
Doss and her daughter plant a garden at home and Ping, who is a chef at Elk Springs Restaurant, is looking forward to growing a variety of plants he wants to use in his recipes.
“He’s excited to grow,” Doss said. “I think he wants to grow bok choy and some cabbage. He likes to make kimchi and Asian dishes. That’s his passion, so he wants to grow some of that.”
While the community garden is a great way to bring together like-minded neighbors, Terry said the goal of Grow Appalachia is to give participants the tools and knowledge to grow their own gardens at home, so that is going to be a large focus for this season.
“We love to work with home gardeners,” she said. “That’s what the whole program was designed for. Then they can take it where they want to go. Hopefully we can get more participation in the Farmers Market with it. That’s ideal to let people make some extra money if that want to.”
Home gardening is one of Doss’ biggest goals as coordinator.
“Obviously, now it’s to get more home gardeners,” she said. “Try to get more people in Cass [at the Burner Homeplace garden] – try to coordinate with Alison [Flegel] on that. Hopefully we will have a good growing season. I’d like to get more people to come to classes, too. It’s more than ‘I’m going to grow a garden.’ You can get some learning out of it and fully immerse yourselves in it. That would be ideal.”
The organization will post notices of upcoming classes in the community calendar of The Pocahontas Times to give anyone interested a chance to join in the learning process.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org