Johnson City is FULL of Energy for Food Justice!

Greetings from Johnson City! We’ve been super busy getting our programs set up and scheduling events for the coming spring season. But let’s just go ahead and get down to the fun stuff:

1Johnson City, Tennessee is currently in the midst of an incredible blossoming of energy for food justice! Just last month we had a new café hold a “First Seed” fundraiser. Now, what’s so exciting about any old café? Well, let me tell you. This café, One Acre Café, is part of the “One World Everybody Eats Foundation” ( Their mission statement is: “To nourish the body, replenish the spirit, and grow the community so that all might be fed.” In addition,

“It is the intent of One Acre Cafe to build a healthy community by providing the basic need of food in a respectful and dignified manner to anyone who walks through the door. One Acre Cafe will be unique in the lack of a set menu as well as set prices. Daily menus will be made using fresh ingredients and funded by the donations of patrons and community members. Everyone will be invited to pay what they felt their meal was worth or to leave a little more in order to help pay for someone else’s meal. If a diner does not have sufficient money to leave, they are encouraged to exchange one hour of service to the cafe for their meal.”

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Spring in East Tennessee


Performers at our community fundraiser.

Build It Up just hosted our first big community fundraiser on Saturday April 21st.  We were at the Next Door at the Acoustic Coffeehouse in downtown Johnson City.  The event had a kids fair, silent art auction and almost 12 hours of great live music!  It was a rainy, cold day and we were a little disappointed with the turnout.  Despite the fact that we did not raise as much money as we’d hoped, a few very cool connections were made and we hope some productive partnerships can be formed in the near future.  One of our performers was so excited that Build It Up is promoting local food and urban gardening in East Tennessee that he offered up some land for us to build a community garden on!  Community events–even if they don’t pull in oodles of money–are still great for meeting like minded people.  Building a vibrant, sustainable local food system is going to take many strong community partnerships and if we are not out there making noise and having fun, then those connections might be missed.


Lexy putting compost on a raised bed.

At our community gardens, we have had some very productive work days.  Rachel and Stephanie are organizing the work at the new garden at Shakti, a local community center for women in Johnson City.  Lexy has spearheaded the efforts at the community garden on the campus of ETSU.  Almost all of the plots at the ETSU garden have been claimed by students and faculty and we are hoping to involve these gardeners in a summer of learning and fun.  Build It Up is getting about 250 square feet of space for growing, and combined with the space at Shakti, we hope to have plenty of produce to feed ourselves, provide for our workshops, and distribute some to local soup kitchens.  The weather has become quite chilly and wet (not unusual for April) but we are hoping the sunshine will soon return.  Planting will get underway in early May, once all chance of frost has passed.

In return for helping to build their garden, Shakti has offered us free space for hosting our summer workshops.  We plan to conduct at least one workshop a month, and so far these include a workshop on food sovereignty in Appalachia, natural pest control, seed saving, food preservation, and water collection systems.  These workshops will be open to the greater community.  There will be a fee associated with each one, but it is our hope to fundraise enough for scholarships so that it reaches a wider audience than just those who can afford to pay.  

Finally, we are busy planning what our Summer of Solutions program will do this summer.  On top of maintaining our gardens and organizing the workshops, we hope to hold another big fundraiser this summer and do some community outreach in an area of our city that has recently been classified as a food desert by the USDA.  We hope that our participants will come out of the summer with the skills needed to be a strong leader in the local food movement.

Participants will gain the skills to:
1. Grow their own food using sustainable techniques
2. Organize and teach skills building workshops
3. Organize and promote a big fundraising event
4. Do community outreach and surveys in lower income neighborhoods

If you like what you’ve just read, then friend us on facebook ( and let us know you want to get involved!

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!