Friends, I’m worried. Worried about my neighbors and the children growing up in these glorious mountains.

Recently, the Jackson County Health Department released a report stating, “77.2 percent of Jackson Countians are overweight, or obese. Further 30 percent of Jackson County children, age 2-18 are currently overweight or obese.” This report went on to say, people say they eat “significantly less fruits and vegetables than recommended.”

Not long ago, obesity wasn’t an issue. A blink ago, everyone tended a little strip of land and had access to fresh vegetables.

Kids played outside all day. We played in mud puddles, made mud pies. We caught grasshoppers (ya don’t see those much anymore). We rode bikes and spat watermelon seeds out of our mouths. We owned the world and loved the land. But now, with “gated communities” and “apartment living” it seems the disconnect we have with this earth is killing us.

I don’t mean to sound like a street preacher, but nowadays most folk depend on a complete stranger to grow, or prepare, every single morsel of the food they consume. We place a heap of trust into someone whose first priority is profit, and, I believe, we have done so to our detriment.

Pondering the article from the Health Department I asked myself, “Why don’t people grow more of their own food? Why are we, as a community, so obese, so sick?”

The answer lies in our heritage.

We must return to our roots. Most everyone I know remembers someone in the family who was a “healer.” A “granny woman” or a “medicine man” who knew the medicinal properties of plants some call weeds, plants we poison with toxins that leach into our water.

We have become ignorant intellectuals, becoming more obese as the years pass. This must stop. We must get outside. We must touch the dirt. We simply must begin a revolution to grow our own food. Even if we haven’t a clue how to start, we must do something. Today.

Let’s start with cucumbers or kale; beans or beets. A packet of seeds and a few simple plastic pots (terra cotta is also acceptable, but requires a lot of watering due to the porous nature of clay). Let’s rush to the store, buy some soil (or dig up a space in the yard). Let’s add coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, and a sprinkle of Epson salt. We can all do that.

Yes, we can.

Let’s build a raised bed. It only takes four pieces of lumber, or a bunch of bricks stood on end.

Heck, you can plant wine bottles upside down for a border if you want to express creativity. Shred every piece of paper you can find. Newspapers, junk mail, your test with a big red “F” on it. Shred any paper that isn’t shiny and soaked with colored ink. Lay it on the ground and dump bags of potting soil on top.

Congratulations! You’re almost finished making your first garden.

Buy seeds. Shake them on top of the dirt. Poke the seeds in. Have the little ones show you how. Follow the instructions printed on the packet and grow your own vegetables, because people of Jackson County, we have a health problem!

Learn the medicinal uses of plants in your backyard. Plants like dandelion, known for purifying the blood and liver cleansing. Violets that could lower cholesterol (source Pick a few bright yellow dandelion flowers and some purple violet flowers too! Rinse and add to salads.

Help your neighbor. Walk your dog, or your goat, or your spouse. Take in a wellness class offered at your job. Volunteer to lead a class. At 1 p.m. today (Thursday), the Wellness Committee at Southwestern Community College hosts a meeting in the Burrell Building where I will introduce my co-workers to medicinal plants growing all over the mountains. Come if you want. It costs nothing and at SCC, “Community” is our middle name.

Please do something, today, for your health.

Renea Winchester in the winner of the Appalachian Writing Award. Reach her at