Farming, Cooking and Teaching in Pike County

by Sister Kathy Curtis

Kelly Scott has always wanted to be a farmer. She grew up as a city girl in Pikeville where her parents were business owners, but her grandparents farmed. “They were miners but they always had a little plot of land for a garden. My grandmother cooked and grew and saved everything and I wanted to do that.”

Scott got her chance when the family moved back to Kentucky to her husband’s home place with two hundred or so acres on Joe’s Creek in Pike County. Most of their land is mountainous but they have “about four acres of flat land, which is a lot in our area”. Scott’s husband Dean, who grew up working in the garden, isn’t always as excited about all the work that goes into farming, saying he already did that. “But I haven’t” remarks Scott.

When asked how she finds the time to work a garden, raise chickens, grow food for her family, and teach full time, she admits that she has to let some things go. “You learn from your mistakes. You plan a lot and do what you can.”

In 2014 they grew enough to feed her family, put up and give away but it wasn’t enough. “By February we were out of pickles and beans. We just didn’t grow enough”. This year the Scott’s are slowly adding to their garden with the addition of cold frames and a greenhouse so that in the fall they can extend their growing season into the cooler months and grow more food.

Scott teaches biology and environmental science at Pikeville High School, passing on her passion for the environment and growing and cooking real food. She wants her student to learn about the world they are inheriting. “I want them toKellys-chicks know why it’s important to buy local and grow their own food. And to be able to pronounce everything they eat.”

Her passion for teaching her students about food means that every year she shows the documentary Food Inc. to her classes. They also incubate chicken eggs each year. In fact, that is how she ended up raising chickens herself.

“One year we had a little too much water in the incubator. I came into class one morning and all but one had drowned.” Her students named the survivor “Lucky” and the entire student body came to her lab to get a peek. Scott brought Lucky home, bought some more pullets to keep it company and has been incubating eggs ever since. This year the class had better luck, hatching 15 of the eggs.

Scott is also the faculty advisor for Teens Who Care, an offshoot of the school’s Personal Responsibility in a Desirable Environment (PRIDE) Club. In 2014, Pikeville High School had a team that went all the way to finals in the state Junior Chef competition. After that, so many kids expressed an interest in learning how to cook that twice a month students gather in her classroom before school to get cooking tips. Several of those students were in the 2015 Pikeville High School Cooking Team who recently won the regional competition with their taco bowl.

“We’ve created the taco bowl recipe with brown rice and black beans and homemade seasonings for the ground beef. We even make homemade salsa.” The students hope to get their recipe approved for use in the school kitchen. They have been asked to cater events locally.

From incubating chickens and creating recipes in the classroom to making home-made seasoning mixes and “waxed paper”, environmental education is key to Scott. “Knowing what is in the food we eat is important”, says Scott. “Do we really want to be a science experiment?”

That’s food for thought, especially coming from a science teacher.