The local food initiative, Grow Local, Go Local, has come nine months ahead of schedule, according to Tom Myslinsky, Americorps VISTA volunteer. Right now there are two gardens located west of Wetzel County Hospital between Paducah and Benjamin drives.
The community garden is currently being used by 10 different families. The second garden, according to Myslinsky, is being planted by the Community Garden Committee, which is being spearheaded by Don MacNaughtan, Diane Anderson, and Jason Warren. The food from the committee's garden, which contains a variety of vegetables such as potatoes, beans, corns, and pumpkins, will be given away in the fall.
In addition to these two gardens, there is a planter located at each of the senior centers in Pine Grove, Paden City, New Martinsville, and Hundred. Myslinsky states that the Pine Grove, New Martinsville, and Hundred senior centers' food can be split amongst the seniors, or they can possibly have a dinner with the harvest. Paden City seniors have opted to use their planter for flowers, herbs, basil, and oregano.
Pictured are the plants that the New Martinsville senior center citizens are growing as a part of the local food initiative.
The local food initiative has received help from a variety of sources. Myslinksy states that a grant from Healthy Joints has been used for ergonomic tools for the senior citizens. Some of the original plants used in the planting have been donated by organizations such as Hannibal Greenhouse and Magnolia High School's Greenhouse. Myslinksy states that as of late April, the estimated value of donated materials and volunteered hours for Grow Local, Go Local have totaled $17,000.
When asked what he would tell people who think it is too much hassle to get into community gardening, Myslinsky responds that he would ask these people if they or their children are considered obese, if they are sick or have to go to the doctor much, or if they have diabetes. Myslinsky further explains that over one third of U.S. children are now considered obese. He credits this to remote location, cultural isolation, environmental degradation, as well as cheap/convenience foods. He believes many of us have "mac and cheese syndrome." He says that although this is not bad once in a while, too much can be a bad thing.
In addition, Myslinsky believes that besides growing for health, people can also grow for profit. According to a study released by Downstream Strategies, LLC, West Virginia University, and the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, if West Virginia farmers grew enough fruits and vegetables to meet the in-season fresh produce needs of all state residents, such a shift would generate 1,723 new jobs and contribute an additional $35.7 million in local sales.
The idea of West Virginia growing all of it's seasonal produce needs may seem impossible, but the study, "West Virginia Food System Assessment: Seasonal Production and its Impacts" finds that growing the produce would require less than 10 percent of West Virginia's undeveloped prime farmland.
But on an even smaller, more achievable level, most vendors in farmer's markets make $150 to $300 per day. Myslinsky also has a longer-term goal of building raised beds in low income housing areas. This would not only provide healthy, fresh food, but lessen their financial burdens at the grocery store.
So growing local is much more than creating a better product. It is also creating a better community.