planting potatoes
Photo by Jason Brashear

SWAP volunteers from Maumee Valley Day School in Toledo, Ohio, help plant potatoes at the Foodways farm in Hindman, Ky. 

Food insecurity is an ongoing problem in many communities. One MCC partner in Kentucky is working not only to improve access to fresh food, but to create economic opportunities for local residents in the process.

The Foodways program at Hindman Settlement School started in 2014 as a Grow Appalachia site. Members receive seeds and plants, get assistance with starting a garden, have access to quality tools and materials and participate in educational seminars and hands-on activities.

According to director Jason Brashear, in the spring of 2017 the idea of expanding the agricultural program became a reality when a small farm, greenhouse and high tunnel were donated to the school. The program now includes a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, a commercial kitchen with state-of-the-art small batch canning equipment and its own farmer’s market.

“Our educational events open the doors for the public to learn basic gardening, cooking and preserving skills,” said Brashear. “Our market serves the greater community with over 1,700 customers and $14,000 in sales, and our Community Cannery is open to food entrepreneurs to legally and safely prepare and market value added products.”

MCC has been present in the Appalachian region for over 50 years. The Sharing With Appalachian People (SWAP) program has been working with homeowners for 34 years, so the Foodways program was a natural connection. SWAP and MCC have partnered with the Foodways program since its inception four years ago, including providing grant money.

SWAP Location Coordinators Louisa and Pete Pirozzi-Erb volunteer with Foodways during the off-season by building chicken and hog “tractors” (movable pens), volunteering in the greenhouse and farm and working in the kitchen. Several SWAP groups also participated in a farm experience this past summer, helping to produce this year’s harvest.

“The program has already seen great success in the community,” said Brashear. “We have recently supplied 40 families with fresh produce for 14 weeks, developed and supported over 60 family gardens that have produced over seven tons of food, and helped establish two food-based businesses out of the community cannery.”