The sun was setting as students, members of the Boone community and their dogs gathered for the first Equinox Harvest Celebration in the Appalachian Roots Garden on Sept. 21.
The event celebrated the bounty grown in the Roots Garden’s second growing season.
One table displayed an arrangement of pumpkins, gourds and flowers grown in the Roots Garden. Another table held a vegetarian and vegan-friendly potluck, including roasted chestnuts, greasy beans, apple pie, and pickled vegetables. There were ceramic plates for the food and blankets spread out on the ground for eating and socializing.
App State alumna and garden manager Sydney Blume and the garden interns organized and planned the event. Over the summer, Blume said her team knew they wanted to do an event based around the equinox.
“By recognizing the equinox and also having it be a harvest celebration, we can take the time to have space to share our gratitude for the bounty that we produced over the summer,” Blume said. “Gratitude is so important no matter where you come from.”
The garden interns led crafts and workshops, including making your own herbal tincture, which many of the guests participated in.
Thomas Cooper, a local herbalist and App State alumnus, led an herb walk and gave expertise on medicinal plants of the Appalachian mountains.
“Herbal medicine is about being in the present and in the flow,” Cooper said as he introduced goldenrod, the first plant in his walk.
Many of the attendees used jars to collect fresh herbs and plant matter for their tinctures while Cooper led the walk. He described the medicinal and therapeutic uses of the broadleaf plantain, creeping charlie and others.
Johnell Hunter Sr., who leads Bless the Children Program of Winston-Salem with his wife Deborah Hunter, gave advice about herbs. He provided dried sage, eucalyptus and rosemary to attendees so that they could create their own tea bags. He said his favorite herb is rosemary because it can be used for improving memory, alertness and pain relief.
Several interns from the Office of Sustainability were at the celebration to educate attendees.
Gaia Lawing, sophomore sustainable development and studio art major, set up a blanket with Sustain Appalachian stickers and bottle openers as free giveaways. Lawing was one of the interns there to educate people about the Office of Sustainability. She elaborated on how the interns help people sort, compost and recycle trash at the football games.
Blake Hornsby, a senior sustainable development major and intern at the Office of Sustainability, provided live music for the event. Hornsby described his style as a combination of experimental acoustic, folk and psychedelia. He said that the interns also give recycling and trash bags out to tailgators on game days to cut down on littering.
The location of the celebration, the Appalachian Roots Garden, broke ground on Earth Day in 2017, but Blume said planning for it happened months in advance. Lee F. Ball Jr., chief sustainability officer, had a great deal of influence in establishing the Roots Garden.
“We were looking to start another campus garden a few years ago, and this was kind of a nice piece of real estate sitting here,” Ball said.
Before the university purchased the land, Blume said there were three houses at 721 Howard St., which is now the location of the garden.
“We thought it’d be better than a parking lot or a building for the time being,” Ball said.
Blume said the purpose of the Roots Garden is not only to provide fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, but also a space where any member of the community can gather.
“Part of this event and other events that we’re hoping to have is really looking at connecting people not just to the garden but to all of the cycles that are involved,” Blume said.
For at least one attendee, Blume achieved that goal. Freshman environmental science major Carli Back said her favorite part of the event was the community aspect.
“Everyone sat down on blankets and ate from the harvest and it was so wholesome and beautiful,” Back said.
Blume said she hopes to make the Equinox Harvest Celebration an annual event at the Roots Garden, in addition to the harvest event held in October.
Story by: Christine Dudley, A&E Reporter
Photos by: Hayley Canal, Staff Photographer
Featured Photo Caption: Sydney Blume, the campus garden coordinator, maneuvers a table downhill with a group of Sustainable Development majors.