Friday, February 17, 2017

Looking Back at Growing the Future

I found this short film by Anthony Frazier about the Farm and Food Teen Training program here at Rural Resources. Growing the Future was made in 2014, and features our own Miss Debbie with some of our teens. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Capital Campaign Deadline Extended!

Illustration of the Farm & Food Learning Center

 You may have heard our exciting news. If you didn't, here it is:

Our deadline for the $200,000 matching grant has been extended to May 1st!

This is great news for us! The last update from our bookkeeper shows that the total of the donations that have come in from the website, and checks mailed in to our office amounts to less than one-quarter of our goal and we urgently need to raise the rest.

This link will take you to a video on our page that tells our story and shows pictures of the fire that destroyed our previous building, but here's a synopsis:

Fire devoured our building in 2009.
In 2009, a lightening strike sparked a fire that devoured our previous building. It was devastating but also showed us the love and generosity of our community. From the volunteer firefighters who responded to battle the blaze, preserve other structures on the property and protect our animals, to volunteers who helped with clean-up, from C&C Millwright's donation of a small construction office trailer to give us a roof over our heads to the local churches who lend us their facilities for cooking classes and events, we have felt the kindness, concern and support from our community for our youth and our mission.

The office trailer donated by C & C Millwright
Since the fire, staff has worked out of the trailer and programs have been conducted in the farm's tobacco barn, outbuildings and a Pavilion donated earlier this year by the Rotary Club. There is no indoor plumbing on the property.

The staff persevered, continuing to conduct and develop programs, and then we received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to build the Farm & Food Learning Center. The center will house classrooms, a commercial kitchen and office space. The kitchen space will also be available to residents of Greene County and surrounding areas to help them establish food-based businesses. Construction on the building began last July.

“The teens in our Farm & Food Teen Training program will be able to prepare and preserve the food they grow on-site and be able to build sustainable farm- and food-related businesses,” says Sally Causey, Rural Resources' executive director. “Farm Day Campers won't have to use the outhouse anymore and students coming for field trips will have expanded offerings. There is no doubt that this facility will be a game-changer for hands-on learning opportunities for years to come.”

Progress on the
 Farm & Food Learning Center.
VWCA  Construction
 Funding for the current phase of construction was raised in 2014 but final costs were greater than originally estimated and additional funding is needed to finish construction and purchase the equipment for the commercial kitchen.

Fast forward to a second generous opportunity from the ARC.

In 2016 we received an offer of a second grant in the amount of $200,000. In order to qualify for the grant, Rural Resources must raise $200,000 to show that the building can be fully completed. We launched a capital campaign in December to raise the $200,000 we need by January 31st. That deadline has been extended and we now have just under three months to raise the remainder of the $200,000.

“Cash and pledges will count towards the match for the ARC funding for which we were recommended by the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development,” says Causey. “We have a list of needed items and a variety of naming opportunities that can be found on our website for anyone who would like to make a specific element of building or a piece of equipment possible. We have learned from our previous fundraising efforts that every penny counts and we welcome all sizes of donations and the ability to speak to any individual or group. All who give will receive permanent recognition inside the building.”

Why are we asking people to give toward completing this project? Because we believe the children, the youth and our community are worth it and will benefit from the Farm & Food Learning Center for years to come.

Food Demo at the Greene County Fair
 “Since we began this program in 2008, at-risk and food-insecure teens have been learning how to fish, not just so they can feed themselves, but so they can share their 'fish' with others,” says Causey. “ It's built into the program that the kids give back to the community in a number of ways. They donate fresh produce from their garden to the local soup kitchen and do cooking and gardening demonstrations at the local farmer's markets and county fair.”

Teens in the Farm & Food Teen Training Program
The teens also cater a thanksgiving meal for the elderly, share their knowledge of growing food in their neighborhoods and some become the cooks and shoppers for their own families.

“Teens have gone on to do some impressive things and most importantly the vast majority have gone on to further their education or go directly into the workplace – in some cases immediately qualifying for management positions” says Sally. “The Farm & Food Learning Center will be key to beginning their own business ventures right on the farm. It will also provide much needed facilities for Farm Day Camp, our long running summer program for children along with a whole host of new learning opportunities for the entire community.”

Would you like to help us reach our goal to qualify for the ARC grant and touch lives for generations to come? There are several ways you can contribute.

Visit our page and donate there.

Visit our website,, and click on the support tab. From there, click on the Capital Campaign tab. Then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the donate button on the left.

Mail your donation to Rural Resources, 2870 Holly Creek Rd., Greeneville, TN 37745. If you bring it in person you can see the progress on the building.

Call our office at 423-636-8171.

We are grateful for any and all donations!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

She Loves to Give!

Amanda Combs has volunteered with
Rural Resources since 2010.

Rural Resources Volunteer Profile

Amanda Combs: She Loves to Give!

Now that we've told you a little about ourselves in last week's blog, we're going to highlight some of our volunteers from time to time. Rural Resources operates on a very small budget, mainly from grants, and a skeleton staff. We just couldn't do what we do without volunteers. In today's blog, you'll read about a hard working volunteer in our produce distribution program.

The program is a new partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, pioneered by our Outreach Coordinator Rhonda Hensley. The partnership aims to overcome the transportation barrier that often prevents those in need of food assistance from accessing what's available in the community.

What Amanda Combs lacks in stature, she makes up for in heart. The first thing people usually notice about this 40-ish-year-old dynamo is her smile. What they usually remember after they part is her hearty hug.

Amanda first began volunteering with Rural Resources in 2010, but the connection goes back further. Rural Resources' Outreach Coordinator Rhonda Hensley met her on the Mobile Farmer's Market route several years before that.

“She lived in public housing,” says Rhonda. “Her kids were very small then. She would stop me every week. They looked forward to that every week, rain or shine or whatever. I watched her kids grow as we went along.”

As the relationship between Rhonda and Amanda grew, it became apparent that Amanda had a heart for helping people.

“I finally asked her to help us with the parade one year,” says Rhonda. “She helped us from morning until night time and she's been helping out ever since then. When we started doing this produce distribution, she was there from day one.”

Amanda says she loves volunteering.

“Rural Resources is my family,” she says, adding, “I just think it's important that we keep doing (the food distribution) as long as we can, because it helps. People are happy to get that food. That might be the only thing they get that day.”

Amanda helping a food distribution
recipient bring her food home.

Amanda has put in hundreds of hours of volunteer hours at Rural Resources, distributed thousands of pounds of food and often helps the frail and elderly get their food into their homes. She also knows where to find the people who need it.

“She knows where all the homeless people are,” says Rhonda. “At the end of the route, if we have any food left over, I've learned to just listen to her and she'll take me places where that food needs to be.”

But food isn't all that Amanda gives away.

“She will do anything you ask her to, but what she does best is give out love and hugs,” says Rhonda.

“Anybody, the homeless, drug addicts, she doesn't care. She just wants to love and feed them. What a volunteer she's been! Fabulous!”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Meet the Staff ...

Whew! Time sure flies! It's hard to believe it's already almost February of 2017. Soon we'll be seeing spring flowers around here again. Meanwhile, maybe this pic will help us all think warm thoughts.

In a previous blog post, I gave you a peak at some of what we do here at Rural Resources. This time, I'd like to introduce you to the staff. The first person you're likely to meet when you call or stop by our office is Sharon Tanner. 

Volunteer Coordinator/Office Assistant Sharon Tanner

Sharon Tanner has been with Rural Resources for more than 10 years as a volunteer and part-time employee, and is currently our volunteer coordinator and office assistant through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) of 1st Tennessee Human Resources Agency. Sharon is an invaluable member of the Rural Resources team, infusing our organization with her positive "can-do" attitude and using her diverse employment experience and talents to further our mission. She says her time here has been a positive experience in both learning new skills and for the many opportunities it's given her to help our community.

Rhonda doesn't wait for folks to come to her. She goes to them.

Outreach Coordinator Rhonda Hensley

Rhonda Hensley's love for people has driven Rural Resources' outreach efforts since 2005. She served as the Mobile Farmers' Market Manager and has pioneered the Children's Farmer's Market program and a partnership with Second Harvest to bring fresh produce to low income neighborhoods.  She tirelessly seeks out those who can't get to soup kitchens or food drops because of transportation or health issues, to find ways to bring food to those who need it most. Rhonda received an associates degree in Education from Walters State Community College and attended East Tennessee State  University. Prior to working for Rural REsources, Rhonda operated a restaurant and rural country store. Her passion for nutritional educatio is focused on public and low income housing, where she has been instrumental in leading and teaching folks to grow and prepare some of their own food.

Sally Causey might be a more familiar name to you. 

Executive Director Sally Causey

Sally Causey, Rural Resources' executive director, has piloted our organization since 1996. Sally brings a great deal of energy and a wide variety of skills to the complex blend of public and private interests that define the nonprofit world. She loves teaching children of all ages how to milk Virginia the cow and takes an active role in field trips to the farm in spite of her busy schedule. Sally holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina and a MAEd. from Tusculum College. In addition to raising two boys with her husband, she's a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, Elder in the Presbyterian Church, a 2004 Greene Co. Partnership Leadership Class graduate, and a 2015 graduate of the University of Tennessee's Consortium of Social Enterprise Effectiveness.

Anyone who is involved with the teen program will recognized Miss Debbie!

Farm and Food Teen Training Program Coordinator Debbie Strickland

Debbie Strickland is  the Farm and Food Teen Training program coordinator at Rural Resources, a post she has held since 2008. She is loved for her tireless efforts to empower and nurture disadvantaged youth and inspire them to reach their fullest potential. She teaches nearly 50 teens gardening, animal husbandry, cooking, business, and leadership skills annually. Prior to working with Rural Resources, she worked for Just for Girls, Manatee County Girls Club in Florida where she helped to develop class curricula. She has a college background in business administration and management, and comes from a family farm in Indiana.

Working closely with Miss Debbie is Taylor Boles.

AmeriCorps/Appalachia CARES Member Serving as the Garden and Grazing Manager Taylor Boles

Taylor Boles is an AmeriCorps/Appalachia CARES member serving as the garden and grazing manager. She works directly with youth in the Farm and Food Teen Training program, developing curricula and teaching classes, as well as planning and managing the teen garden and greenhouse. She is a full-time student pursuing a degree in biology with a concentration in environmental studies. Her passions include environmental justice and education. She hopes to make a difference in the world one compost bin at a time. 

Teddy Dabbs has been keeping the farm running for years.

Farm Manager Teddy Dabbs

Since 2007, Farm Manager Teddy Dabbs' welcoming smile, watchful eyes and capable hands have guided the farm through its seasonal cycles. He cares for the livestock daily, as well as oversees gardens, repairs, maintenance and supervises volunteers. His wealth of knowledge and experience has earned the respect of all who work with him, as well as the affectionate title of "Cow Whisperer." Teddy grew up on a Greene County farm and enjoys his time working in Rural Resources' country setting.

This guy usually stays in the background, but he loves to teach the kids. He is seen here telling them about vermiculture.

Accounts Manager Paul Scala

Paul Scala is Rural Resources’ accounts manager and works with the treasurer in the finance committee. Paul is a long-time organic grower and has been composting with worms for much of that time, something he shares with visitors of all ages who come to Rural Resources. Before becoming Accounts Manager, Paul’s position was Educator, where he taught gardening to elementary school children in after school programs. Previously, Paul worked in Accounts Payable for a local industry. He holds a B.A. in sociology from Binghamton University.

And that leaves me. I first learned about Rural Resources while conducting interviews for the Greeneville Sun's ATHENA Award nominations as a freelancer in 2014.

AmeriCorps/Appalachia CARES Member Serving as the Communications Coordinator Lorelei Goff

Lorelei Goff came to Rural Resources in 2014, enthusiastically volunteering her talents as a blogger and photographer, and working with Farm Day Camp. She became a seasonal program assistant in the Farm and Food Teen Training Program in 2016 and is currently serving as Rural Resources' communications coordinator through AmeriCorps/Appalachia CARES. Lorelei has a bachelor's degree with concentrations in journalism and environmental studies, works as a freelance science and environmental writer, and is a certified naturalist.

So that's all about us. How about telling us a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in Rural Resources? Please comment below!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Do You Do, Anyway?

Are you wondering what Rural Resources actually does? Check out these videos and blog links to find out!

If you like what you see and want to participate or volunteer, call the office at 423-636-8171.

Would you like to donate to our capital campaign to finish our Farm & Food Learning Center?  Visit our website,, or 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Orientation for Farm and Food Teen Training Program!

It's time to sign up for the 2017 session of the Farm and Food Teen Training program!

Orientation is Monday, January 16th from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Greeneville. Any interested teens in middle school or high school can apply for a limited number of slots. The program has a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning. Topics include gardening, livestock, cooking and entrepreneurship. Participation in the program can lead to paid internships and exploring higher education options.

For more information, call Debbie at 423-636-8171.

If you would like to support this program for youth in our community, please visit .

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Annual Teen Recap

Whew! The year sure is wrapping up fast! Our Farm and Food Teen Training program wrapped up this month with the Teen Dinner on December 6th. The annual celebration of the teens’ accomplishments, held at First Presbyterian Church in Greeneville, gives everyone a reason to pause and reflect on the year’s program. 

This year’s theme was Growing a CEED. The acronym stands for Cultivate, Equip, Empower and Develop. Those principles are at the heart of the FFTT program and Rural Resources’ mission to connect farms, food and families.

Teens prepared and served the dinner with the help of Chef Melissa Rebholz and Severian Simmons, co-owners of River House Farm. The menu for the dinner included a succulent pork pot roast, gourmet salad, corn bread, and a delicious cheese cake. Locally-sourced foods for the event came from Rural Resources, River House Farm, Buffalo Trail Orchard, Ziegenwald Dairy and Rosey Aviaries & Bee Farms.

Each youth received a certificate of completion for their year of learning and service. While some will be moving onto the next step in their program cycle, others have completed the 4-year program and have the option to enter into internships. Volunteers and supporters also received certificates and thank you gifts created by the teens and a former program participant who started a food-based business. Robert Graf, a long-time supporter who passed away last spring and is dearly missed, was also remembered.

FFTT stats for the year include 5,596 square feet of gardens on our Holly Creek Farm and at homes of the teens, and 2,113 total training hours, which includes classes, gardening, fieldtrips, catering and volunteering at the Tabernacle Soup Kitchen and a local retirement home, bringing the program’s cumulative total up to 15,125 since 2008. The teens also made several donations of fresh produce from their garden on the farm to the soup kitchen. One of the benefits of the FFTT program that’s hard to quantify is the impact it has on the families of teens and in their neighborhoods. In addition to the fresh produce they grow for their families, they often become the shoppers and cooks in their homes, saving families money and improving their nutrition. The home gardens sometimes prompt questions from neighbors, which allows the teens to share their knowledge and experience, while inspiring other low-income residents to grow their own food.

Another highlight of the year remembered at the dinner was the Leadership Retreat, an event designed around a ropes course and outdoor adventure activities to build trust and teamwork within the group and help individuals develop leadership skills, compassion and the self-confidence they need to make good decisions, especially when faced with peer pressure.

It’s great to see all these CEEDs taking root and bearing fruit in the lives of the youth we are privileged to work with. Not only do they become more self-sufficient and achieve greater food-security through the programs, the business skills prepare them for employment or starting their own businesses and, through our connection with Grow Appalachia, two of our youth have been accepted into tuition-free degree programs at Berea College in Kentucky.

The truly amazing thing about all of this is that’s it’s been accomplished without a building or indoor plumbing. A tragic fire in 2009 devoured the programming and office space. Since then, every inch of usable space – an old tobacco barn and some outbuildings – has been utilized for programs and a small, two-room construction trailer was donated to house all the staff. An outdoor composting toilette and a pit-style outhouse serves as bathrooms and there are outdoor sinks in the milking shed, produce processing station and Farm Day Camp area.

While the success of the FFTT program is a testament to the determination of the staff to fill a need for the at-risk youth we work with and give them the hope of a better future, we’ve become root-bound and are in need of more – and more efficient – space. Construction began on a new building over the summer, but we need more funds to complete it. Through a generous opportunity from the Appalachian Regional Commission, we have an opportunity to receive a $200,000 grant if we can raise $200,000 on our own. This would be enough funds to complete the construction of the Farm & Food Learning Center. The center will house classrooms, a commercial kitchen and office space … with indoor plumbing!

Rural Resources Executive Director Sally Causey launched a capital campaign this month to raise the $200,000 by Jamuary 31st.

“There is no doubt that this facility will be a game-changer for hands-on learning opportunities for years to come,” says Causey.

Please consider being a part of connecting farms, food and families through community education, programs to empower at-risk youth and building a vibrant local-foods economy by donating to our capital campaign. Donations can be made at, on our website or by mailing a check to our office at 2870 Holly Creek Rd, Greeneville, TN 37745. Have questions? Visit our website, email us at or call our office at 423-636-8171.

Help with Classes:
Kitty Earl
Mary Goldman
Melissa Rebholz
Coralynn McKelvy
Janice Graf
Connie & Lynn McCamey

Garden Volunteers:
Connie McCamey
Ruth McCamey
Deb Cook
Joan Ruch
Tanasi Rice
Lauren Boles

Teen Chopped Cook-Off:
Beth Foster
Catie Snelson
Sheena Julian
Julie Ibanez
Barbara Hodges
Mary Goldman

Program Volunteers:
Hannah Lowe
Sheena Julian
Catie Snelson
Austin Julian
Sharon Luttrell
Faelyn Campbell
Bobby Strickland

Fair Volunteers:
Janice Graf
Melissa Rebholz
Sharon Luttrell
Faelyn Campbell
Austin Julian
Jerry Anderson
Donna Yelton and niece
Marina Church
Joy and Eddie Dailey
Suzie Suchman
Bobby Strickland
James Belt

Donations of time & labor or materials:
Roy Darnell
Chris Hahne
Hugh & Barbara Belt
James Belt
Dollar General – Austin Julian
Garry Renfro
Robert Graf
Rural Support Partners
Coralynn McKelvy

First Presbyterian Church
Greeneville Farmers Market
Depot Street Farmers Market
Fox Park
Jonesborough Farmers Market

Berea Funders:
Alice Loftin & Don Miller
Anonymous Donor
David Hendricksen
Nickola Kuhn
Gail Beach
Norma George
Westside Garden Club
Julia Anderson
Sally Causey
Edward & Joan Ruch
Kirsten Davis

Teen Chopped Cook-Off Sponsors:
Ingles #70
Sav Mor Foods
Broyles Feed Store
Food City #606
Food City #663
Food City #608
Big Lots
Ace Hardware
Grand Rental Station
Angel Waddell State Farm
Kyker’s Extreme Automotive
Bob’s Factory Outlet

Program Funders:
East Tennessee Foundation
Presbyterian Hunger Group
Grow Appalachia