Rural Resources: Connecting Farms, Food, and Families on the Front Lines
Who We Are:
Rural Resources is a 21-year-old nonprofit organization located in Greene County, Tennessee. The mission of our work is “connecting farms, food, and families,” with a focus on agricultural education and the promotion of locally produced food. Our primary stakeholders include local farmers, economically at-risk teens, children, and community members at all ages, abilities, and income levels. Our mission is “to connect farms, food, and families” by facilitating learning experiences to preserve farmland, natural resources, and sustainable agricultural practices to build a vibrant local food economy. Towards that end, we provide networking and marketing opportunities for farm products, education on food production, preservation, and business development, and venues for underserved residents to taste, learn about, and purchase nutritious, locally produced food.
What We Do:
With a staff of just eight people, supplemented by volunteers and a dedicated board of directors, we run a wide variety of programs to educate people and promote local foods and sustainable agriculture.
The Farm & Food Teen Training Program gives economically at-risk teens the chance to learn how to grow, prepare, and market garden-grown produce and animal products, while they develop critical life and career skills such as resume-creation, public speaking, and conflict resolution. At the end of the four-year-program, teens have the opportunity to complete an internship with a local farmer or chef. In addition to teaching some basic self-sufficiency skills, this program introduces participants to career planning and higher education, and many teen participants have gone on to develop life goals ranging from a career in the culinary arts to marine biology.
The Mobile Farmers’ Market delivers fresh, local farm products to various neighborhoods and restaurants in Greeneville and Tusculum, focusing on populations with limited transportation. The MFM strives to create an inclusive local food system, accepting SNAP benefits and offering educational “tastings” and vegetable production workshops. These events help create community while introducing many customers to healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking methods, and creative food production options for small spaces, such as container gardening.
Farm Day Camp is one of Rural Resources’ oldest programs. Each week during the summer, groups of children ranging in age from pre-K to middle school spend five days immersed in the natural world and farm life. Activities include milking a cow, digging in the dirt, splashing around in Holly Creek, and various crafts and educational programs designed to make the natural world and our food system alive in the minds of the children who are tomorrow’s leaders.
The Rural Resources Garden includes multiple plots encompassing about an acre altogether, which are continuously cultivated in vegetables, fruits, and some cut flowers, using sustainable rotational methods. In addition to supplying food for our programs, events, and a small CSA, the garden provides multiple learning opportunities for program participants and community members. Each year one or more teen interns work alongside our experienced farmers to grow and market garden produce. Excess produce is donated to local food banks.
Other programs we are proud of include the Four Seasons Grazing Club, our facilitation of the Greene County Health Council’s Food Security Task Force, and the Local Foods for Better Living campaign, and the wide variety of events educating people and celebrating local food in Greene County. Learn more at our website, www.ruralresources.net; or check out our facebook page at www.facebook.com/RuralResources
How You can Help Us:
Rural Resources is entering an incredible period of growth and change at the moment. After five years of waiting, we are about to begin construction on the Farm and Food Training Center, which will replace and improve upon our original facility which was lost in a fire. This will allow us to dramatically increase our reach in the community. We are so thankful for all the support we have received from the community in order to make this new facility a reality!
The welcome expansion of our capacity will place new demands on our garden, which will exceed the capacity of the rototiller and hand tools we currently use to maintain the garden. We are seeking a compact utility tractor with a few basic implements to allow for more efficient use of the garden space. A small tractor would allow us to increase farm production by about 75%. It would also allow us to incorporate quick cover crops into our garden rotation. When planted at the right time, cover crops can grow alongside food crops, protecting and nourishing the soil without affecting crop yields. This practice is critical for soil health, and gives us an opportunity to give back to the land that gives so much to us.
If you would like to contribute to the purchase of a tractor for Rural Resources, please go to http://www.ruralresources.net/index.php/board/extensions/components/content-component/article-categories/240-capital-campaign and click the donate button. To show our appreciation, we will mail you a small gift as a thanks for your support.
There are many other ways to get involved, including volunteering, becoming a member of Rural Resources, buying a CSA share, coming to one of our events during the growing season, or any ideas you might have! To stay up to date on what Rural Resources is doing, like us on facebook, sign up for e-newsletters on our website, look for us in the Greeneville Sun and other local media, or just give us a call at 423-636-8171.
By Eva Griffin