“We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.” ―Vandana Shiva
If building soil health, growing organically, and sharing fresh food with our neighbors is “making peace with the Earth”, Grow Appalachia is certainly working to secure the future. Although leaders of all kinds are hard at work at Grow Appalachia partner sites throughout Central Appalachia, we couldn’t help but notice the number of women leaders we work with!
As always, we are grateful for the women and men leaders of all ages involved in Grow Appalachia. We want to take the opportunity to highlight some of the young women leaders we work with:
Lexy C., Partner Site Coordinator at Build It Up East Tennessee, on stereotypes and working with women in agriculture.
“Historically, women have been the main drivers of agriculture, so it’s weird in this day and age that when we think of farmers, we think of men. Maybe men grow the cash crops, but it’s always been the job of women to feed the family. Women have always been the driving force behind food. In the local food system here, in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, where I’m doing a lot with agriculture, I work primarily with women in leadership roles. It’s awesome. I feel like we’re moving stuff along. It’s a women-led movement here and I don’t know why and I don’t really care; we’re doing it and it’s awesome! It’s wonderful energy.”
Christina L., Partner Site Coordinator at GreenHouse 17, on her role as a woman leader and working with other women.
“I learn from other women, and here especially, clients. And I’m always learning something new about myself every day, trying to improve myself and how I carry myself in what I learn, how to continue to be a voice for others. I’m consistent in what I do—I believe in consistency and speaking my truth. I will always do that. But we as women also have to band together, be with different, diverse groups of women and support each other. And just keep on fighting the good fight.”
Laura G., Partner Site Coordinator at Wolfe County Grow Appalachia, on her role in the Wolfe County community and food movement.
“I don't necessarily consider myself a leader. Or think about it in those terms: "woman leader in the food movement in Appalachia." I just feel like a passionate gardener and a coordinator. I'm facilitating learning. I've always thought that touching, affecting, inspiring one life is better than none. In my observation, and for whatever reason, women are often the ones taking the majority of the garden responsibility in the family. There are strong women in Appalachia. I am passionate about the work I do because I am helping my community to become more self-sufficient and healthy and aware of where their food comes from. These are aspects of my own life that I value tremendously; to see those values bring joy to others is invaluable. People are learning to grow food or switching to organic here for the first time. They are walking out to their yard and picking something that they put into dinner. They are opening a jar of tomatoes in January for a wintertime meal. They are smiling and proud as they are nourished by their soil. They are more food secure in our rural, food desert than ever before. It tickles me pink to think I had anything to do with those joyous moments.”
Grow Appalachia is a community garden-based food security program headquartered at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. Grow Appalachia seeks to help as many Appalachian families grow as much of their own food as possible. Since 2010, Grow Appalachia has worked with more than 4,375 families that have harvested 2,957,740 pounds of food. In 2017 Grow Appalachia is working with 32 partner sites in six central Appalachian states.
-Story contributed by Alix Burke, Grow Appalachia Communications and Foodlorist VISTA volunteer.