Sarah Geegan


College: Arts and Sciences

'Homegrown Kentucky' Empowers Eastern Ky. Community

Published: Jun 5, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 5, 2012) What began as a brainstorm for some kind of community service project became very real for seven University of Kentucky students and for the people of Owsley County, Ky. These seven students established a project redefining community service — empowering the entire county just 87 miles from Lexington to bolster itself against the debilitating factors affecting Eastern Kentucky.


In November, the James W. Stuckert Career Center assembled a UK team to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University, a program through which university students propose solutions to the world's humanitarian problems. While each of the students came from different backgrounds, from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Agriculture, they unanimously decided to focus upon a community within the Commonwealth.


"We wanted, from the beginning, to focus on Appalachia because often times these projects tend to focus on third-world countries," Ben Smith, a graduate student in the UK Department of Philosophy, said. "Living in Kentucky, we actually have what is statistically a third-world country in the state with us, in terms of your basic indicators of quality of life and standards of living in the area."


Smith said that the group based its research on three principle standards for quality of life: education, affluence levels and health levels; they aimed to attack all three. By December, the group determined its target community.


Owsley County, a community of approximately 5,000, is classified as a "food desert" an area within an industrialized nation, which lacks readily accessible, nutritious food. With 41.5 percent of Owsley County citizens living below the poverty line and a median household income of $11,750, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the group focused on developing a systemic, long-term approach specifically tailored to the county's dynamics and of which the community could take ownership.


"We knew the one thing that would kill this project would be if we put our time and effort into something that they weren’t interested in," senior linguistics major Luke McAnally said. "We wanted to make sure before we took any steps further that this was something that was needed and something that people wanted."


After meeting with the Owsley County board of education, local high school teachers and nonprofits such as Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and Grow Appalachia every other week for three months, as well as consulting with faculty in the UK Appalachian Center, the initiative "Homegrown Kentucky" was born.


The group established a small-scale farm, revitalizing 10 acres of land owned by the school district. By connecting and networking with various community organizations, they received donated farm equipment and other means to restore the previously unused land.


"In working with the UK Robinson Center as well as the county agriculture board, we were able to use all of the most up-to-date agricultural methods to prepare the land," McAnally said."


The farm will benefit the county in multiple ways. Most directly,1.5 acres will yield enough produce to sustain the entire school district, allowing it to provide students with healthier meals and to reallocate funds to educational needs.


The project also aims to ameliorate the county's low high school graduation rates, which in 2000 stood at 49.2 percent.


"One of the things we found out is that the kids obviously aren't less intelligent than any other student, but they tend to learn much more readily when it’s from an experiential or tangible point of view," Smith said. "So they are going to have a lot of educational components tied into this project. Every grade, third to 12th, will have a plot of ground that's assigned to them, and they will be in charge of that. Their health classes, economic classes and what-not will be tied into that."


Community members will also have access to community plots along with all of the materials they will need to grow their own food.


"Along with that, we are working with the local farmers’ market and Kentucky Proud to get them licensed to sell their vegetables and fruits and the local farmers’ market," McAnally said. "We still don’t know any real numbers on that, but we’re hoping to bolster the local farmers’ market considerably."


Team member Patrick Johnson, a senior Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences major, said that the key to the project was involving the community in the discussions and allowing the community members to shape Homegrown Kentucky to the county's dynamics.


"This is really a community project," Johnson said. " It was much less us putting a project together, as them embracing it and putting it into play; it's really theirs. I think it is important to realize that, despite the area's poverty, the people there are very happy because they have been able to maintain a lot of deep cultural values. So we are just trying to help them be healthier human beings and strengthen the economy a little bit. It's not about us going in and 'saving them.'"


The group managed to fund the project through independent fundraising, a grant from the Student Sustainability Council and a service grant from UK Student Government.

"Associate Provost Phil Greasley was really the biggest factor I had on campus," Smith said. "He reimbursed us for our travel expenses as well." 


In March, the team presented their project at the national Clinton Global Initiative conference in Washington DC, where they were personally acknowledged by former President Bill Clinton for their work in the area.


"Having our project personally acknowledged by President Clinton was definitely a huge honor," McAnally said. "It gave us affirmation that what we were doing was not only important to people here, but important to people that are trying to attack world needs."


As many of the group members recently graduated, they established Homegrown Kentucky as a student organization, in hopes that other UK students will continue to focus upon empowering communities in Appalachia.


Johnson said he hopes the organization will maintain the relationships and connections that the group established in Owsley County.


"In the end, we want to thank the people there," Johnson said. "It's not about us, or Clinton or anyone except the people there, and empowering them to become people that don't have to rely on industry. They can produce food for themselves and have a healthier lifestyle."



Other Homegrown Kentucky founders include political science major Adam Meredith. As the Vice President of Homegrown Kentucky, Meredith manages all monetary accounts under the organization’s name. Ben Norton, currently studying film, music and Spanish at UK, is the video producer and graphic designer for the Homegrown Kentucky team. Norton also maintains the website


For more information on Homegrown Kentucky, click here.


To watch a video further describing Homegrown Kentucky, click here.


To listen to a podcast, produced by the College of Arts and Sciences, in which group members Adam Meredith and Luke McAnally discuss the project, click here.




MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365;

Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Dallas Buyers Club
College of Law Welcomes Trevor Potter
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: Notes on Marie Menken
LNFS Presents: Edge of Tomorrow
UK Jazz Ensemble/ UK Lab Band
Earth & Environmental Science Student Open House
"Nerd Night" Exhibit and Concert
"Anne Braden: Southern Patriot" Film Screening and Discussion
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: My Neighbor Totoro
LNFS Presents: (500) Days of Summer
Men's Soccer vs. Old Dominion
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Alabama
Dancing at Lughnasa
Kentucky Football vs. South Carolina
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Rock Climbing @ Red River Gorge
Cross Cultural Workshop 2014
Swing Dancing!
Dancing at Lughnasa
Cross Cultural Workshop 2014
UK Children's Hospital/Birthing Center Annual Perinatal Loss "Walk To Remember"
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Texas A&M
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
Resumes and Cover Letters
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
Networking and Job Search
UK Choristers
Rock Star Professionalism Series
Stillness in Motion: The Essence of Symmetry - presented by Dr. Carl Lee, Mathematics
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
LNFS Presents: Night of the Living Dead
UK Law Day
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
LNFS Presents: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Mark Berry, Guest Percussion Recital
National Depression Screening Day
LNFS Presents: Torch Song Trilogy
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: Shut Up and Play the Hits
LNFS Presents: Watchmen
KLJ Data Privacy Symposium
Family Weekend Check-in
Big Blue Pantry Food Drive #1
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. South Carolina
Family Weekend: Derek Hughes
Dancing at Lughnasa
Kentucky Football vs. ULM
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
UK International Tent/ Tailgate Party
CT Surgery Symposium: Advances in the Surgical Management of Cardiothoracic Diseases:
Family Weekend Tent Party
Dancing at Lughnasa
DNT 101: A Taste of the Kentucky Doughnut Trail
Big Blue Pantry Food Drive #2
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Auburn
Sunday Lunch at Historic Spindletop Hall
Men's Soccer vs. Marshall
Job Club - Social Media and Your Career
Massage on the Go
LNFS Presents: The Last Samurai
UK Symphony Band Concert
Women's Forum Conference 2014
#TrendingTopics: Pornography vs. Morality
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: The Tree of Life
LNFS Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy
UK Wind Symphony
LNFS Presents: Princess Mononoke
LNFS Presents: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Ole Miss
Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet
Paint the Town Blue
Free Kaplan Entrance Practice Exams
4th Annual Big Blue Soccer Tournament
Men's Soccer vs. New Mexico
Swing Dancing and Costumes?
Paint the Town Blue
UK Men's Chorus and acoUstiKats
Jazz Spectacular
UK Student Pajama Party
Kentucky Volleyball vs. LSU
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Florida
Paint the Town Blue
Midterm of 2014 Fall Semester
Returning to Work and Breastfeeding
Open Access Week Kickoff Event (Webcast)
Grad School 101
Royalty Showcase
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week: Preparing for Law School
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week: Grad School Panel: Surviving Your 1st Year
Film & Panel Discussion: Be Like Others
Graduate and Professional School Showcase
Your Publication, Your Choice: Choosing the Right Open Access Journal
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week
Kitty Karnival
Study Tips for Medical School
LNFS Presents: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Thank-A-Donor Day
Campus Sustainability Day
Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Information Session
Getting Into Medical School
Writing a Winning Personal Statement
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Marimbas From Hell
LNFS Presents: The Fault in Our Stars
Generation Open: Researchers' Roles in the Age of Openness
Homecoming Street Fair
LNFS Presents: Kiki's Delivery Service
LNFS Presents: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
"see blue." Day at Keeneland
Peanut Butter Drive
Pumpkin Carving Tournament
Kentucky Football vs. Mississippi State
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
UK Women's Choir and Paws and Listen
Bill Cooper Faculty Recital
What Makes You "YOU: with Brett T. Spear
UK Trumpet Ensemble
Undergraduate Research Information Session "How to Find A Mentor"
Kentucky Men's Basketball Blue/White Scrimmage
Job Club - How To Get A Job at UK: Updates on IES Applicant Tracking System
Common Reading Experience Author Lecture: Presenting Ishmael Beah
Screening of the documentary Teached
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: The Shining
Pinterest Party
UK Lab Safety Fair
Leadership Assessment
"see boo." Halloween Party
Society for the Promotion of Undergraduate Research (SPUR) Meeting
#UKEDTALKS: Design Thinking with Dr. John Nash
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Tennessee
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Lucy
Film Viewing and Discussion of The Other Boleyn Girl
LNFS Presents: Papirosen
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Alabama
LNFS Presents: ParaNorman
LNFS Presents: Carrie
All Hallow's Eve Concert (UK Symphony Orchestra)
Work-Life Retirement Conference

Fri, 10/24/2014

Repeats every week until Sat Nov 29 2014 except Sat Sep 20 2014, Sat Oct 18 2014.
Sat, 10/25/2014

Reset Page