Farm Like The First Time

Gardening and growing your own food is a long standing tradition of residents of our area – but you don’t need to be a long time resident, or have a lifetime of experience to do so. Earlier this fall, I spoke with a relatively new arrival to Highland, who established her very first garden this year.

“I’m Duong Hoang, I’m the dentist, I live in Highland County. I always wanted to work in public health and there was a need for a dentist up here, and I toured the place, and just love the scenery and the people. So here I am – been here for three years now.”

“I’ve been fortunate – I have a good piece of land and over the last winter, I thought to myself, you know, instead of doing all that mowing, why don’t I grow stuff? So that’s what I’ve been doing – growing a lot of stuff.”

“I’ve been online a lot, just reading about a lot of ways of how to grow things, and I decided to do the no-till method, using a lot of wood chips and mulching to plant things in – less work and less disturbance to the soil. I’ve just been playing around with a lot of growing methods, applying permaculture principles by observing what’s happening in nature, and kind of apply it to where I’m at. And also just to play around with companion planting, just experimenting, see what works.”

She talked about what worked…

“I think my raised bed keeps things neat and tidy and just being able to add amendments to the bed as needed, so things seem to be growing well that way. I’ve been growing lots of Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, green beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, things like that. But now I’m dealing with a lot of pest pressure. So I had to pull up all my kale and things – I’m learning how to manage you know, it’s just a learning process and it’s great – you learn something new every time.”

And what didn’t work.

“Last winter, I started to build up a hugelkulture mound, and that’s a method where you put a lot of old rotten wood logs and things like that, as your foundation. And over time, those wood logs would break down and hold in moisture, and things like that. And then you can plant stuff on top of that mound. So that didn’t work out for me too well, probably because I didn’t do it correctly. I did the log thing that I dumped some dirt on top, and then planted some stuff in there, but I don’t think the wood logs I put down were rotten enough, because things started to grow out of the logs – things I didn’t want. So that didn’t work out.”

Now that the current outdoor growing season has ended, she’s planning ahead.

“You’ve always got to be dynamic, change things around, observe what works, what doesn’t work, and apply new things you learned, like this year I grew a bunch of sunchokes, and it’s taking up the bed. So next year, I plan to remove those sunchokes, and maybe make a border – kind of like a privacy fence, but an edible one. And then I’m planning to plant more fruit trees in the fall and the winter time, when you can’t grow much. And then also, I’m trying to see how far I can push the season, so I built some low tunnel, using PVC pipes, and I’m going to see how far I can grow the cold tolerant crops like spinach and Swiss chard and things like that.”

For Duong, gardening is about more than just the food produced.”

“Oh, it does so much. I mean, to me it’s therapy. That’s how I feel. And living up here, I just feel so blessed. I mean, breathing the fresh mountain air, being outside, and then you get your physical workout. You don’t need to go to the gym, your backyard, it’s your gym there.

And her advice for others pondering starting to garden, but unsure of taking the plunge?

“You definitely can do it and you’ll be so surprised. You know, it’s just amazing. You plant a small seedling and you watch it grow. I mean, that’s just incredible. And I hope I encourage everybody, if you never gardened before, you don’t need a large piece of land or anything. If you don’t have land, grow something in a pot. Plant that seed. Get your kids out there – if they have a problem eating vegetables, and stuff like that, if they grow and they see it, who knows? They might be astounded at what they what find.”

“And it’s good for their teeth.

”It’s definitely good for their teeth, ok, their oral health. so eat your veggies.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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