Local agricultural agencies see gardening trend in the region | New
HUNTINGTON – Farming organizations in the area are helping local gardeners grow food on their property.
The Guyan Conservation District serves Boone, Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo and Wayne counties by encouraging experienced and budding farmers. The district partners with other agencies such as the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and the West Virginia Conservation Agency to work with private landowners on a voluntary basis.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began last year, there has been a resurgence of interest in home gardening. Ken Brown, the Cabell County District Supervisor in the Guyan Conservation District, said more people living in the district want to learn how to preserve food and grow vegetables at home, just like the Victory Gardens in the time of WWII.
Caitlin Black, a conservation specialist at the West Virginia Conservation Agency, said her own family were among those who have returned to cultivating a garden. She said they previously had a garden for a number of years, but gave up the practice. After a shortage of fresh produce, they resumed gardening.
“There are a lot of families that do that,” Black said. “They want to know where their food comes from. This is the great thing. They want to know if it’s safe. We want to know how he grew up and more and more people are starting over. “
When someone asks for help, there is a general conversation about the gardener’s level of interest, the type of plants they want to grow and what their land looks like, said Corine Powell, district environmentalist at the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Then the agencies determine how they can help.
“They can call us, and we can just go out and talk with them about their goals on their land and what they would like to do and how we can help them improve their natural resources and their farming on their property,” Powell mentioned. .
Some of the programs are cost assistance reimbursements, which means there is the possibility of financial assistance for local gardeners for different types of agricultural projects, Powell said. If the groups do not have a suitable program for a project, they may know of another organization that could help them.
Getting help through local farming districts connects gardeners with a community of horticulturalists. They often share ideas, tips or projects with each other. The groups organize a few field days a year for gardeners. Bill Stewart, president of the Guyan Conservation District and representative for Wayne County, said he often trades tips with other gardeners on Facebook or over the phone.
Sarah Haddox is a local mother of four. The family started cultivating a small garden in their backyard earlier this year. Haddox said she tries to grow plants that aren’t usually available at a farmers market or foods that she knows her kids enjoy, like peas or strawberries.
“It feels good to go out and think, ‘Well, what am I going to eat? And just come here and pick as whatever looks to be ready. We pick it, bring it inside and cook with it, ”Haddox said.
The garden brings the whole family together. Haddox said every child helps. Other bonuses include spending time outdoors and exercising without really feeling like it’s a chore.
She reached out to the agencies after seeing a friend’s social media post regarding the Guyan Conservation District. Now she has a few raised beds in her garden.
Haddox plans to add a high tunnel in his back yard – a greenhouse-like structure in which plants can be housed inside to grow. The big advantage of a high tunnel is to lengthen the growing season, so that more food can be grown year round. Other bonuses are the ability to control irrigation to water the plants as needed and to deter deer from munching on the plants.
About 20 to 30 requests are made to build a high tunnel per year, Powell said. His group received more inquiries last year during COVID-19 through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
Powell said the high tunnels are for gardeners who want to grow as much as possible or are looking to sell certain produce. She said the main crops in this area for high tunnels are beans, tomatoes and cucumbers.
To start a conversation about personal gardens, contact the Guyan Conservation District at 304-528-5718, contact Black at 304-549-1739 or call the local USDA NRCS office at 304-208-8395. District supervisors who work in each county can also be contacted for more information.
McKenna Horsley is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @Mckennahorsley.