Written by Olivia Sanders, Dig In! Assistant Manager
When you imagine a gardener’s work, you probably don’t think of clipboards or databases. Recordkeeping will probably slip to the bottom of your priorities list if you’re gardening for the same reasons I am — to be outside, work with your hands, or be physically active. However, taking notes can be extremely rewarding as you track the progress of your plants. Think of it as another type of cultivation in the garden: sowing seeds of observation allows you to “harvest” new farming knowledge.
Dig In! exists as an educational model for sustainable farming systems, and keeping records is one of those systems. We invite you to see our process and its outcomes for 2016, and we welcome your feedback and commentary. Attached to this post are three documents that describe our observations from this year and offer insights for future improvements:
|Garden Journal||The Garden Journal is a breakdown of our knowledge “harvests” in the categories of insect management, cover crops and mulches, irrigation, and weeding.|
|Crop Overview||The Crop Overview shows how long it took each crop to grow, including dates they were planted and harvested.|
|Harvest Tracker||The Harvest Tracker (the most valued of all databases at Dig In!) tracks the total weight of the vegetables we produced. (skip to the bottom)|
If you can’t read those documents, some highlights of our knowledge “harvests” include:
- Onions can reduce pest pressure from cabbage moths
- Potato beetles caused the spread of disease in our potato crop
- It took our bulbing onions about four months to mature
- We produced a total of 6,500 pounds of food this year!
These documents all started with simple note-taking on the farm. We wrote down all the tasks we did each day and basic observations about weather, plant growth, and insect pressure. These little bits of information seemed frivolous to write down at the time (trust me), but when we sat down in the winter to consolidate the data, patterns began to emerge. The data began to show us the full picture of the farm, and helped us connect problems with their causes. All these notes will help us become better gardeners next year, and they were pretty easy to create!
Recordkeeping practices can help home gardeners as well. If you want cabbage and carrots for coleslaw in time for your big Fourth of July cookout, you can look at last year’s notes to see how long it took those things to mature. Or if the squash bugs got to your summer squash (like us this year), you could try planting them a week earlier than you did before. However you want to use your records, I suggest just diving in to explore what they can show you. Every garden has a story to tell if we listen!
And what did the Dig In! Garden’s story say this year? Together we can produce healthy food for all! Last year, Dig In! Yancey Community Garden produced over 6,500 pounds of food for our neighbors. And as always, a very sincere thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers, donors, and community partners who make our work possible. We are looking forward to another abundant year of growth with you in 2017!
Gather ‘round for stories of growing, sharing and eating food told by you and your neighbor
in Yancey County!
Date, Place & Themes
January 14 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church (Burnsville) from 2:30 – 5:30pm
Theme: The Greasiest Beans
Share a tale about growing food: a beautiful seed, a favorite crop, the best tasting vegetable you’ve ever grown, or maybe the greasiest bean you’ve ever seen . . .
March 18 at the Yancey Senior Center (Burnsville) from 2:30 – 5:30pm
Theme: My Granny’s Garden & Table
What story do you treasure about being in the garden with your granny or sitting at the table eating food she cooked?
Sharing Stories & Supper
Every Story & Supper Gathering has a theme and everyone in the audience is invited to share a personal story from their lives that relates to that theme.
If you have a story you want to share, leave us your name at the door between 2:00 – 2:30pm.
Open to anyone with a five-minute story to share on the afternoon’s theme.
At the end, we’ll eat a meal together. Bring a small dish related to the theme would be great, or just your appetite!
A few tips about telling a story at the gathering
All voices and ears welcome.
All stories have a beginning, middle and end. And they have a point! Being clear about why the story is important to you and why you want to tell it makes it even better.
5 minutes means 5 minutes. We want everyone who signs up to have a turn.
Hosted by Dig In! with St. Thomas Episcopal Church & Yancey Senior Center
Questions? Call Kathleen at (828) 536-0414 or diginfarmeratgmail.com
November 23, 2016
As I write this, garlic is taking root in beds at the new Dig In! Garden on Blakenship Creek Rd. in Yancey County. I confess that garlic is my favorite crop, but this was the year of the sweet potato. In June, volunteers tucked 400 slender plants into soil and in late October over 1400 pounds of the large tubers were unearthed by helping hands at one of our final Work Together days at the Bolens Creek garden. Today we will deliver the last of the sweet potatoes that have been curing at Mountain Heritage High School to the food pantry at Reconciliation House in Burnsville.
When I reflect on what it means to grow food together, the squiggly sweetpotato tells the story best. From the plants we purchased from local businesses, to the land leased to Dig In! by a family, to the volunteers who labored to plant and harvest, to our staff that hosted volunteers, tended the crop and delivered it, to the high school students and Ameri-Corp volunteers who helped us cure them, to the community partners who provide the sweetpotatoes to families –this is the power of growing a community garden.
Over 3,000 of our Yancey County neighbors do not have reliable access to sufficient and affordable quantities of food. When I deliver Dig In! crops to our Harvest Tables and local pantries I get the pleasure of a conversation with some of these folks about how they like to cook and eat the vegetables we grow. We talk about the weather and often the gardens that they tend or farms they grew with their families in years past. I leave those conversations being profusely thanked and blessed. How I wish in these moments you could hear the appreciation for the food we grow!
I will prepare the sweet potato casserole for our Thanksgiving meal this year. Though I know a plain sweet potato is best for my body, I’ll (very) generously apply the brown sugar, small marshmallows and butter to the orange flesh. It’s a treat my mom made for the holiday and my favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal. At Reconciliation House this week I spoke with a young mother who is living with friends because she is unable to afford rent on the wage she makes. She was thrilled to receive our bag of sweet potatoes and thanked me for being able to provide her little boys their favorite Thanksgiving treat. And so it is that I pass that message of gratefulness on to you. Each of you, from the beginning of the season to the time when the table is set, gives what you can. In doing so, we are gifts to each other.
Executive Director & Garden Manager
Fall is slowly unfurling in the mountains and we’ve made great progress at the new Dig In! garden to plant flowers and get garlic in before winter. Thanks to everyone who has joined us in this work (and play!).
Please come to our final Work Together days this Thursday (11/10) and Thursday, November 17th at Blakenship from 10-1p.
Sherry Ingram will join us at 11am on 11/10 to walk us through how to assess the potential and conservation of water resources to grow food. Come learn about and explore water with us! You can learn more about Sherry’s work here.
Here’s to growing roots together,
Dig In! is growing to new land (to us!) in Yancey County. The Dig In! Garden will be located at 744 Blankenship Creek Road beginning in November 2016. Thanks to Larissa and Warren Bare for leasing the property to Dig In! so that good food, a just food system and a strong community can continue to be cultivated through the work we do together.
Come out to lend a hand or just see the new spot on October 29th, 2016 for our Garden Go! day. We’ll meet at the Bolens Creek Garden at 1pm and then load up tools, materials, and plants to relocate to the Blankenship Creek Garden.
Have a talent, an interest or gift that can help us grow our roots deep as we start a new garden? Please email us at diginfarmeratgmail.com
Thanks for all your support as we we’ve searched for this land. We look forward to continuing to grow with you.
Join us for the 6th annual Dig In! Empty Bowls Dinner on September 30, 2016 from 4:30 – 7:30pm at Higgins Memorial United Methodist Church in Burnsville, NC. Proceeds raised benefit Dig In!’s work to grow and give vegetables so that everyone eats in Yancey County.
Join your family and neighbors for a meal that celebrates our community’s ability to feed each other so that everyone eats. Tickets can be purchased at the door or the following venues: Appalachian Java, Burnsville Wine And …, Yancey Chamber of Commerce, OOAK Gallery, Pig & Grits, and Reconciliation House.
You can be part of the crew that makes this event possible:
To Donate Bowls for the Event
To Volunteer in the kitchen for the Event
To donate Soup, Breads or Desserts for the Event
What are you looking forward to about this year’s Dig In! Empty Bowls event?
-by Girl Scout Leader Amy Trobaugh
During the perfect evening weather of Monday, May 23, eight members of Junior Girl Scout Troop #12715 got down and dirty at Dig In! Yancey Community Garden.
First we toured the lush perennial plantings of Dig In! with Assistant Garden Manager Olivia Sanders. Olivia asked us to use all of our senses to investigate, then describe, the living world we explored. Then, we helped Garden Manager Kathleen Wood plant over 100 starts of “King of the North” bell peppers under black plastic. We learned about different types of mulches. We asked why we were putting crab shells into the soil. We punched plastic. We massaged roots. We tucked plants into bed. And along with David McCourry, Scouting Hannah’s brother, we gave the plants a shower. We had a blast!
Throughout 2015-16, our Scouts have been working diligently to earn their Bronze Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can earn. We have been discussing the issue of Food Insecurity in Yancey County — why it exists, who it affects, and most importantly, what we as Girl Scouts can do to alleviate hunger and educate others about how they can help others and themselves. Digging at Dig In! have been some of our most rewarding hours spent yet towards earning our Bronze Award!
It’s a risk, but we’re going to say that spring is here! At the heart of Dig In! is our community. We cannot wait to be in the garden together this season.
Please join us on Thursday, April 21st from 10am – 1pm for our first
Work Together day.
We’ll work in the garden, celebrate Earth Day and have a grand ol’ time
Work Days will be held every Thursday through September at the Dig In! Garden (10am – 1pm). We’ll be adding an additional day (TBD), particularly suited to organized groups such as Girls Scout Troops, Summer Camps, Church Groups and any other group that wants to spend time together and get their hands dirty. Please park at Bolens Creek Baptist Church across the street and walk over. We’ve got tools and good company. No dogs, please.
Dig In! Yancey Community Garden extends an invitation to all to join us as we celebrate the approach of Spring with music, food and fun. Our Local Musicians’ Showcase Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, March 19th, 2016, 6pm-11pm, at the Celo Community Center. Doors will open at 5pm.
On stage will be five outstanding local musical groups: Nancy Wood-Susan Garriques-Susan Scoggins, Polly Lorien and Bob Early, David Wiseman, Broke Holler, and Smokey Joe and the South Toe Syndicate. Yves Giraud and Eric Witherspoon will be the Tweeners.
For a mere $10.00/adults and $5.00/children entry fee you will enjoy good music as well as lots of food and fun with friends and neighbors. Delicious homemade goodies and non-alcoholic beverages will be on sale for $1.00 each. (BYOB for alcoholic drinks; glasses provided.) Additionally, you may look forward to cakewalks throughout the evening-$2.00 per ticket OR 4 tickets for $5.00. All proceeds raised will help Dig In! continue to grow and give food away during the 2016 season.
The Celo Community Center is located in the old Celo Health Center on Seven Mile Ridge Road in the South Toe area of Yancey County. Looking forward to seeing you there! Together, we can continue to help build a community where everyone eats.