Build It Up East TN, launched the second year of it’s Backyard Gardens Program in January with a community meeting on the 16th. The program is accepting up to 20 new gardeners to participate in a year long program that teaches gardening, cooking and food preservation skills. The program is funded by Grow Appalachia, a foundation out of Berea, Ky. The Mission of Grow Appalachia is to “re-garden Appalachia” and they support over 40 project sites in 5 states.
Participants in the program will receive help with tilling new garden sites, a series of 6 workshops, and plenty of seeds, plants, fertilizer and tools. In return, participants are asked to volunteer within the program, assisting their fellow gardeners with caring for their plots.
Last year, the program trained 10 families to grow their own food and 6 of those are returning for a second year in the program. The focus during this pilot year was on growing for local markets. Collectively, the participants grew over 11,000 lbs of food and sold over $8,000 to restaurants, grocers, and the River Creek Farm CSA. The program plans to continue these sales relationships with buyers, encouraging the returning gardeners and a few select new experienced gardeners to grow and expand their sales.
The focus for beginning gardeners will not be on selling produce, but simply to concentrate on learning best practices. While many of the first year gardeners in the 2015 program did sell produce, they admitted the pressure to sell was a lot for them. Instead of feeling like they are failing at meeting their sales goals, the program will celebrate the simple act of growing, eating, and preserving fresh food! First year participants will be welcome to return for a second year, where they can experiment with growing for market.
For more information about the program, visit Build It Up’s website.