Maria and 3 sisters planting watermelons at Food Forest.

Volunteers help “Sowing Seeds” grow and bear good fruit! Sowing Seeds is our after-school education program led by Shae Keane and Taylor Malone in downtown Johnson City, mostly at the home base of the Wilson Avenue Food Forest.  In the words of Shae, at her dynamic blog which covers the program, Sowing Seeds grew from a shared belief by a few teachers: that when we support young people to connect with their community and local environment, they grow in knowledge, love, care, and stewardship of place. Sowing Seeds is our initiative to address not only “Nature-Deficit Disorder,” but also food insecurity in our community and to help children cultivate skills and knowledge of the origin of food, how to grow their own food and save seed, how to cook their own meals from fresh veggies and fruits, how to craft from pieces of nature, and to discover their own sense of belonging, peace, and confidence through this journey. (If that piqued your interest and you have kids under age 12, this program is now accepting more youth for every Monday afternoon: see enrollment information here. We’d love to have you enroll!)

Anastasia with student showing off a baby perennial to plant at the Food Forest.

Sowing Seeds is a ton of fun. In all seasons. In all moods. In all weather. And it’s an extremely unique program that we are so proud to have been funded by the Washington County Community Foundation. At the close of National Volunteer Week, we want to THANK all of the friends who come out so regularly to help and teach at Sowing Seeds.

Maria Offield and Anastasia Lynch began volunteering as interns with Sowing Seeds when they were Nutrition undergraduates at ETSU, through the encouragement of Nutrition professor Michelle Johnson. Their joyful, and challenging, and ultimately inspiring experiences practicing the Sowing Seeds curriculum led them to apply to do a two-year Masters Degree in Nutrition at ETSU— and their practical experience boosted their scores for acceptance into the program.

Maria and Anastasia are two of more than a dozen adult volunteers that come as helpers when their schedule allows, a testament to how enjoyable re-connecting with nature and food is for all ages.

Maria and Anastasia’s consistent presence every week was key to creating relationships of trust and confidence with the average 10-17 children who attend.

If you are a teacher (learning, or practicing, or retire) who would like to commit to volunteering every Monday this spring & summer for the Food Forest, or see a program in action, contact Taylor Malone at, or 423-979-2581.



Everyone takes a walking field trip from the Food Forest to the Johnson City Wednesday farmers market, with $6 each that they raised from selling peach trees. Anastasia at right.