We recently got back from a trip to celebrate 10 years of partnership with Grow Appalachia. In 2009, John Paul wanted to do something to respond to the financial crisis and prove that America still works, that there were hardworking, entrepreneurial people that needed a hand up and not a hand out. His VP at John Paul Mitchell Systems, Tommy Callahan, told him about the problem of food insecurity in his home region of Appalachia. In true entrepreneurial, can-do fashion, John Paul called some people in Appalachia and got the first food and gardening program of its kind off the ground based out of Berea College in Kentucky.
Grow Appalachia’s mission, as conceived by John Paul, is to help as many Appalachian families grow as much of their own food as possible. With a focus on helping people grow food in their backyards, community centers, churches, residential treatment centers and even jails, Grow Appalachia has bloomed into a force for great change in the region.
Over the last 10 years, Grow Appalachia has:
Provided assistance and training to more than 5,700 families
Grown more than 4.4 million pounds of food
Helped people in 6 states and 44 counties
Created a self-sustaining high tunnel manufacturing facility that provides income for gardening infrastructure
Helped install commercial kitchens to provide for the possibility of value added products
Sponsored a summer feeding program for food insecure kids
There have been countless small businesses, farmers market sellers and other entrepreneurial efforts that have arisen from Grow Appalachia. On our trip, we heard touching stories of families saving and growing seeds that go back 300 years in their families. Conscious choices of parents and even whole families to grow and eat healthier food. Healthcare centers becoming more holistic centers for wellness instead of just reacting to disease or trauma. We met two women wearing “Onions not Opioids” shirts who have one year of sobriety in their lives and find much solace and purpose in gardening in a Grow-Appalachia sponsored garden.
We are proud to continue to partner with Grow Appalachia to sponsor garden grants for organizations and individuals committed to serving and transforming their communities. As John Paul would say, America works. Grow Appalachia works.
Photos by Ariana Jordan