Rural Resources, a local farm-based non-profit which connects farms, food, and families, is having an exciting spring. In addition to preparing for their annual Farm Day Camp, working with teenagers in their Farm & Food Training Program, planting a large garden that will support their programs and a small Community Supported Agriculture project, and improving their Mobile Farmers’ Market, they are also achieving important milestones that will allow the organization to grow in ways that will positively impact its program participants and the local food community in East Tennessee.
For over 100 years, the farm which Rural Resources has called home has been owned by the family of Rural Resources’ Founders, Watt and Jennifer Childress and Larry and Karen Childress. Recently, Rural Resources purchased the 15 acre farm site, where a new Farm & Food Learning Center is to be located. The Center will feature a small commercial teaching kitchen as well as training space. The farm, passed down to the founders by their grandfather, Lawrence Dobson, is located very close to Tusculum College. It features a quilt square from a quilt made by the founders’ great grandmother, Lizzie Brown Dobson.
Rural Resources was founded to share the farm with the community and in so doing, to elevate the importance of maintaining agricultural land for future generations. To that end, not only has Rural Resources purchased part of the farm to continue its work, but the Foothills Land Conservancy of Maryville, TN will hold a conservation easement on the land which means they will visit at least annually to make sure the agricultural integrity of the land is being maintained. The conservation easement prevents development and remains with the deed in perpetuity.
On Wednesday, April 15, Rural Resources held the official groundbreaking ceremony for the soon-to-be-constructed Farm & Food Learning Center, which will feature a small commercial kitchen and provide training space for learning about all aspects of production, marketing, and business development both for the community at large and for youth and families engaged in Rural Resources programs. This building replaces Rural Resources’ old office, which was destroyed by a lightning-started fire in 2009.
Despite chilly rainy weather, Rural Resources had a wonderful crowd of friends to celebrate this occasion, who gathered under a tent provided by Farm Credit Mid-America in order to stay dry.
Speakers included Rural Resources Executive Director Sally Causey; Board Chair Joyce Doughty; Pastor Dan Donaldson of First Presbyterian Church in Greeneville; Greene County Mayor David Crum; architect David Wright; Farm & Food Training Participant Amanda Peryea; Capital Campaign Committee members Buddy and Becky Yonz. Highlighted speakers were Mike McClamrock, President of the East Tennessee Foundation; Guy Land, Chief of Staff of the Appalachian Regional Commission’ and Lisa Mensah, the USDA Undersecretary of Rural Development, who reports directly to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“This is such an important day in Rural Resources history,” said AppalachiaCARES/Americorps member Eva Griffin, “We are incredibly priveleged to have notable public servants from local Greene County volunteers to important federal officials.”
The event concluded with a delicious meal incorporating local ingredients (including greens grown at Rural Resources), prepared by AppalachiaCAREs/Americorps member Melissa Rebholz, Rural Resources farmer, along with teen program participants.
On April 23, Rural Resources friends and supporters gathered for its Annual Meeting to bless the land, celebrate, and enjoy a hamburger supper at Rural Resources. In addition to purchasing the land, Rural Resources sought to place a conservation easement on the property which will ensure that it remains in a natural state suited for agriculture.
The evening featured a presentation by Meredith Clebsch of the Foothills Land Conservancy, the organization who will hold the development rights for the land and preserve it’s natural and agricultural assets in perpetuity.
Dr. Dan Donaldson of First Presbyterian Church offered the land blessing.
Danny Bigay, Echota Cherokee musician and artist, was the highlight of the evening. Bigay coaxed evocative and stirring music, in the traditional Cherokee style, from river cane flutes he handcrafted himself. After performing several songs from his Bird Songs CD, he answered questions about his art, music and Cherokee culture. He also spoke at length about the need to preserve and restore native river cane, which is a vital part of traditional Cherokee culture. Bigay learned to play the flute as a child, later learning how to craft them from Cherokee elders. He enjoys using his art and music to preserve and share Cherokee culture. His performance was made possible in part by the East TN Foundation Arts Fund.