My Gardening Gurus
The three people who impacted my gardening methods the most (but I’ve never met):
I had always dreamed about growing produce for my family year-round, but thought I would have to invest in an expensive greenhouse to do it. Thanks to Mr. Coleman, I learned otherwise. His books, Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook changed my mindset. If he can grow organic produce year-round without a heated greenhouse in Maine, I can do it in my Kentucky garden. And inexpensively as well. If you want to learn the “quick-hoop” method of low tunnel construction, why ducks are essential to the organic garden, and which cold-tolerant vegetables are ideal for winter growing, you need to read his books.
Pam has a long history of growing a lot of food for many people on just a little land (around 100 people on 3.5 acres (!), all at the Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia). I not only admire her knowledge and experience, but more so because she shares it so readily, at conferences, in contributing articles for the fantastic market gardening resource, Growing for Market, and in her awesome book, Sustainable Market Farming. As I’ve moved from hobby backyard gardener to market gardener, her book (and blog) has become my go-to resource.
His classic text, How to Grow More Vegetables, was the first gardening book that I purchased. If you want to grow more food “than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine,” this is your go-to book.
Other people that inspire me:
Jere Gettle has single-handedly introduced me to more seed varieties than I ever dreamed possible. It’s a LOOONG story, but because of a Baker Creek seed gift from a friend, I discovered kohlrabi, cowpeas, rapini, heirloom lettuces, and an abundance of Asian greens like mizuna and Michihili cabbage. These have become some of my garden favorites, and I’m thankful for Baker Creek’s vision and mission.
Perhaps no one else is doing more to preserve Appalachia’s genetic and cultural bean heritage than Dr. Best. If you “don’t know beans about beans” and want to learn, visit the Sustainable Mountain Agricultural Center.
Joyce Pinson (Friends Drift Inn)
Joyce uses her public visibility as a journalist, blogger, and TV host to promote Appalachian heirlooms. She has played an important role in introducing Eastern Kentucky staples like cushaws and paw paws to big city chefs. When she dreams for Appalachia, she dreams big!
My Seed Sources
And of course, I can’t forget the folks that REALLY make it all possible:
I have the schooling in agriculture, but he is the one that knows what it means to be a farmer. His family raised hogs and grew potatoes, strawberries, corn, and soybeans on several hundred acres in Pennsylvania. A history buff and English major, he introduced me to the writings of Wendell Berry and Victor Davis Hanson, which ignited my passion for local foods and subsistence gardening. He’s taught me a lot about cooking vegetables (which means hardly cooked at all), from baby limas to sweet corn.
My father’s parents always raised a garden, and my childhood memories of them seem to revolve around it. Helping break beans with family and friends. Watching Maw-maw take off her muddy garden clogs outside the kitchen door to bring in morning glories for the bud vase. Pulling carrots to feed the horses. Sitting on the porch slurping on big tomatoes. Retreating to the cool basement as the heat and humidity from the kitchen canning spread throughout the house (one reason I have an outdoor stove today).
My parents stopped gardening for a while when we moved to Kentucky, but my childhood memories are of gardening, ducks, and honeybees at our Robbinsville, North Carolina home. My Dad gave me my first experience in beekeeping, allowing me to help with a few swarms that ended up in the cherry trees near the hives; his hives produced beautiful sourwood honey each year. I also remember running to the house with a shirt-full of okra for Mom to fry up for us. She looked out for me in so many different ways… as well as all the animals I brought home! There aren’t many mothers that would indulge a daughter’s fascination with turtles, snakes, salamanders, lizards, and spiders; I’m thankful that she is mine.
There are lots of mother-in-law jokes out there, but I’ll never make fun of mine. For one, she’s tough as nails. More importantly, though, I respect her. She has worked harder in her life than anyone I’ve ever known. She held down multiple jobs to support her family’s farm, then came home to hoe strawberries, ride the potato harvester, and vaccinate pigs.
By the way, I love her too, and not just because she gave me my husband.
For helping me see everything new again.