Committee forms to organize gardening program

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Contributed Photo  The number of backyard gardens in East Tennessee is growing thanks to education and outreach by Built It Up East Tennessee.

Contributed Photo
The number of backyard gardens in East Tennessee is growing thanks to education and outreach by Built It Up East Tennessee.

An organization that is promoting food security through backyard gardening education is looking to help establish a similar program in Carter County.
Build It Up East Tennessee helped 10 families establish their own backyard gardens last year by providing workshops, supplies, tools and seeds over a nine-month long program. Two of those were Carter County families, however, Program Leader Lexy Close said they had some difficulty attending all six workshops.
At Thursday’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) meeting, Close presented the program’s goals and results, explaining that residents of Carter County are interested, but could benefit from a similar program more close to home. CAB does a project each year, and the organizations represented felt this initiative would be a positive program to implement.
This expansion would require local leadership, as the Johnson City program is volunteer-led by a few people.
While purchasing and some workshops could be done in conjunction with the Johnson City program, Close said recruiting and site visits would need to be organized by Carter County members.
“I think Carter County would greatly benefit from this, and we really want to support it, but we don’t have the capacity to manage two programs,” said Close.
After presenting the ways that the program functions in Johnson City, CAB members voted unanimously to form a committee on which members would organize some gardens and workshops for 2016. These would be a tool to use during the application period in October from Grow Appalachia, which funds Built It Up East Tennessee and similar programs in more than 40 communities.
“We’re way more likely to get funding if we have something to show there is interest and initiative this year to give as an example when applying for funding this October,” said Close.
The committee includes Jilian Reece and Allison Foster of the Carter County Health Department, Ashlee Williams with the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library, Justin Clark of the Boys and Girls Club, and Vickie Clark and April Pierce of the Carter County University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Office.
During a discussion of how to get these “starter gardens” formed, some committee members said their sites might be viable locations.
The library was suggested, as it has some space and will be hosting the youth from Boys and Girls Club through the summer.
Some schools and even the Carter County Detention Center have gardens already.
Close said the committee will need to locate space for gardens for 2016, a leadership team, and funding to establish a program by 2017. Grow Appalachia accepts applications in October and awards funds in January.
The structure of the program allows families to create and maintain their own organic gardens, as well as cooking and preserving classes in late fall. The programs takes on a marketing focus for second-year participants, helping gardeners to sustain their gardens and ultimately their communities.
Grow Appalachia funds organic gardening practices only, but Close said the Carter County program could also apply for grants and funding through various agencies. She has already worked some with Unaka High School’s Drop Collaborative and works full time with Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Council, and believes that networking with these existing entities and local government could be a vehicle to help mobilize this project in Carter County.
Vickie Clark said the UT Extension would definitely like to be involved, and Reece mentioned that it already provides some similar classes and is willing to provide some funding.
The committee will meet at the library on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 1:15 p.m., weather permitting, and is open for the public to provide input. For more information, contact Allison Foster, health educator with the Carter County Health Department.
“We welcome anybody that wants to help,” said Reece. “We need spaces for gardens and want them to be located centrally so people can access them, so we are happy to talk with anyone that may have a space.”
She said these spaces may be used for teaching in the future once the program is established in 2017, because its focus will be on helping people to garden in their own backyards or in another personal garden.

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