What’s Growing in East Tennessee


There are a lot of exciting things growing in East Tennessee! The program leaders of Build It Up eTN are very busy making connections in our community–Johnson City, TN–in order to jam pack our Summer of Solutions program with food justice solutions. We are very hopeful that we have found an established community garden at a local university that spends its summers largely unused. It is a large garden and its current director is having trouble maintaining it. BIU hopes to revitalize the space and get it growing to suit our many needs for the summer.

Access to this garden will allow us to accomplish four important goals for the summer:

1. Increase self-sufficiency for participants
2. Teach and learn urban gardening skills
3. Provide a majority of the produce we need to conduct our workshops
4. Improve access to local food at area soup kitchens

This summer, we hope that our participants and volunteers will learn skills for becoming more food secure.  Our goal for growing is to produce at least 30 percent of our food needs for the summer, if not more!  The garden at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) will provide a teaching and learning space for our participants, students and faculty families, and interested community members on sustainable, organic urban agriculture methods.  Lexy is very interested in growing for small spaces, increasing self sufficiency, and implementing Permaculture techniques and she hopes to share her skills and learn new ones this summer.  The garden will be incorporated into our skills building workshops, through timely sessions on planting, caring, harvesting and preserving.  Any extra produce will be donated to local soup kitchens, food banks or community centers. We are making plans to coordinate food pick ups with other community gardens and hope our efforts can improve access to local, nutritious food in our area.

The garden at ETSU will serve as our home base for the summer but will not be our only project! Lexy is currently working on getting a few smaller projects set up for participants. Tentatively, so far, these will include:

The garden at ETSU will serve as our home base for the summer but will not be our only project! Lexy is currently working on getting a few smaller projects set up for participants. Tentatively, so far, these will include:

  1. Partnering with the Shady Oaks Garden Club to build a new “pizza garden” at the Girls Inc. In a previous year, Shady Oaks constructed a self-watering herb garden at Girls Inc, but they are looking to expand the space in order to provide even more learning and play opportunities to the kids.
  2. Partnering with Shakti in the Mountains, a women’s resource center, to expand their small existing garden to provide more space for enrichment activities.
  3. Partnering with the Carver Center and the Carver Peace Garden to plan fun food related activities for the many kids who access this community center in a low-income neighborhood. They will be running a summer camp around the same time as our SoS program, so the possibilities are great!
  4. Starting a collection service for extra produce from existing community gardens to provide local, nutritious food to area soup kitchens. Lexy hoping we can tie this in with activities to promote the benefits of this kind     of food to both the people who provide the cooked food and the people who access it. This is the most tentative project yet, and Lexy is working to make connections with local soup kitchens in the coming weeks.

In addition, Veronica is currently working on setting up workshops that address issues of food justice in the area. These will be taught by local farmers, students, gardeners, food service workers, local businesses, and food service recipients. Workshops will work to address intersections of food justice and gender, food justice and race, food justice and the environment, and food justice and Appalachian cultural history. They will also cover practical, everyday-use topics too, such as canning, wildcrafting, building a local food economy, and skills training for farming and gardening.

Finally, the third project that we are working on for this summer is putting together a cross-region food justice tour! This tour will take folks from Johnson City, Unicoi, and Elizabethon to Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Greene County. At each destination volunteers and community members will work with other regional food justice organizations in order to build connections between rural and urban issues, network cross-regionally, and learn about the different kinds of food justice work in East TN.

In the meantime, we’re busy holding fundraisers, talking to community members, and getting together with our local food partners to get everything ready for this summer!

One thought on “What’s Growing in East Tennessee

  1. Registration is now open for the Appalachian Regional Commission’s April 2012 Growing the Appalachian Food Economy: A Forum on Local Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture.

    This multi-state event, to be held April 3-4 at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, will focus on how Appalachian communities can expand the role that food assets and sustainable agriculture play in local economic development to increase employment opportunities, spark entrepreneurial ventures, and build local wealth.

    The forum will provide an opportunity for community leaders; economic development officials; farmers; food producers, processors, and distributors; and public and private funding partners to share ideas and learn practical ways to expand their local food economy.

    Forum participants will hear from practitioners and experts on topics including:

    the economic and community benefits from supporting local food systems;
    why the “local food” economic development approach is particularly useful for Appalachian communities;
    how to take advantage of innovative models of capital and credit that support local food economies; and
    how to develop and encourage a “buy local” community mindset.

    The registration fee is $75.00 and includes optional local food and farm tours immediately following the forum on Wednesday, April 4.

    Register soon! Space is limited. Visit http://www.arc.gov/localfood

    to register and to get detailed information on the agenda, lodging, and more.

    Questions regarding the forum? Contact ARC at conferences@arc.gov or 202.884.7700.

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