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 generosity.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 423-636-8171.
OUR FARM AND FOOD TEEN TRAINING PARTNERS: THANK YOU!!
Help with Classes:
Connie & Lynn McCamey
Teen Chopped Cook-Off:
Donna Yelton and niece
Joy and Eddie Dailey
Donations of time & labor or materials:
Hugh & Barbara Belt
Dollar General – Austin Julian
Rural Support Partners
First Presbyterian Church
Greeneville Farmers Market
Depot Street Farmers Market
Jonesborough Farmers Market
Alice Loftin & Don Miller
Westside Garden Club
Edward & Joan Ruch
Teen Chopped Cook-Off Sponsors:
Sav Mor Foods
Broyles Feed Store
Food City #606
Food City #663
Food City #608
Grand Rental Station
Angel Waddell State Farm
Kyker’s Extreme Automotive
Bob’s Factory Outlet
East Tennessee Foundation
Presbyterian Hunger Group