About Us

Founding members of Build It Up

Founding members of Build It Up with David Cooke of Grow Appalachia

Build It Up was founded in 2012 by a group of young folks hoping to make a positive impact on the local food system in East Tennessee.  We are fiscally sponsored by Appalachian RC&D Council, a local non-profit that serves the six counties of Northeast Tennessee.  We are a partner site of Grow Appalachia, which funds our Backyard Gardens Project.

Our Mission:

To improve the health of our community and economy and help preserve our region’s cultural heritage through the promotion of local, sustainably grown food.  We aim to provide producers with greater access to markets and resources and to provide consumers greater access to affordable, nutritious food twelve months a year.

Our Guiding Approach:

Food banks, soup kitchens and other forms of charity are necessary to prevent short term starvation and malnutrition.  Build It Up seeks to ask deeper questions as to why so many members of our community are going hungry in the first place.  Rather than provide charity, we seek to work in solidarity with our community, building and investing in people to create community-owned solutions to hunger and poverty.

Central Appalachia has a long history of self-sufficiency and unique cultural foodways, both of which have been severely eroded or lost altogether.  We support self-sufficiency through the teaching of skills like sustainable gardening, seed saving, cooking and food preservation.  We also would like to encourage more agricultural based entrepreneurs to take advantage of increased demand for locally grown and made products.

Our Accomplishments:

Since 2012, we’ve helped a lot of people grow their own food!

  • Guided 30 families toward food self-sufficiency in our Backyard Gardens Program
  • Constructed a 25 bed community garden in Erwin, TN
  • Helped establish community gardens in other towns, one in Jonesborough and four in Elizabethton
  • Taught dozens of workshops on gardening, cooking, food preservation, soil health, seed saving, chickens and more!
  • Constructed three Food Forests (aka community edible parks featuring fruit and nut trees)
  • Became partners on the Sowing Seeds for Success and Sustainability project which works with youth ages 5-24 to teach nutrition, gardening and job readiness skills.

Our Vision:

We envision a vibrant local economy that supports thousands of small “agri-preneurs” growing, selling, and preserving food for twelve months of the year.

If you also support this vision, please join us or consider a donation to support our work.