Eastern Ky. jumps on national gardening bandwagon, big time

In response to the downturn of the economy, people in Morgan County and the rest of Eastern Kentucky have turned to their roots — getting down in the dirt and growing a vegetable garden, reports Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. The offshoot is that people can improve their health by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. (Times photo by Luke Sharrett)

Vegetable gardening has been on the rise nationally since 2008, which was around the time when Lehman Brothers collapsed, starting the turmoil ion the nation’s financial system. “Our sales have skyrocketed,” said George Ball, chief executive of Burpee, one of the country’s major vegetable seed retailers.
Unlike in urban centers, where buying locally grown vegetables often comes with a exorbitant price tag, eating in rural areas is usually cheaper. Teacher Rebecca Frazier said she “she had cut her food bill in half by growing her own and preserving and by buying in bulk from local farmers,” Tavernise reports.
Timothy Woods, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky, said the number of farmers’ markets in Eastern Kentucky has doubled since 2004. “You won’t see certified organic products or any fancy marketing” seen in urban areas, he said. “It’s a very different world.”
Sarah G. Fannin, on ground in photo, is an agriculture educator for UK’s Cooperative Extension Service. She said the service has fielded twice the number of calls from people who are asking for gardening help in the past three years. “Ten years ago, we hadn’t really been thinking about where our food was coming from other than the drive-through or the grocery store,” she said. “Now there’s more concern.”
Though Tavernise points out gardening does not necessarily lead to improved health, Bridget C. Booske, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, said County Health Rankings show Morgan County people are living longer and a smaller number of babies are born underweight. Obesity and diabetes rates remain high, however, and locals believe those rates won’t significantly improve until there are more jobs and less poverty in the area.
But to create another source of income, Fannin is urging farmers to turn to gardening. The first time Robert Bradley, a former coal miner who turned to farming, planted sweet potatoes, he doubted the effort. But they grew so well, it was has prompted other farmers to try it out too. (Read more)
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