Backyard Gardens Program

We are Accepting Applications!

Our 2016 Backyards Garden program has been a great success!  We worked with 25 families in four counties and have collectively grown over 8,000 lbs of food as of September!  Build It Up has confirmed funding from Grow Appalachia for a third year of our Backyard Gardens Program!  We are pleased to announce that we will be accepting applications until Jan. 31st.  Apply Online Here.

Please consider Donating to Build It Up in support of this program.  If you would like to offer up land for participants in this program to use, please use the Contact Us page to send us a message.  We appreciate your support!

 2017 Online Application

Who We Support:

While we would love to help everyone we can, we are based out of Johnson City, TN and must limit applicants to residents of Carter, Unicoi and Washington Counties.  We will consider applications from folks living within 25 miles of Johnson City, if not in these counties, but these counties remain recruitment priorities.  If you live in Sullivan and Johnson Counties, please contact Appalachian Sustainable Development.  If you live in Greene County, please contact Rural Resources.  Grow Appalachia has project sites in 40 communities in 5 states across Central Appalachia, so please check their website to see if there is a program nearer to you.

This program arose out of a shared desire to support the growth of a sustainable, community-based food system in our area. Through gaining the necessary skills, knowledge, and commitment to gardening and farming, our community is enriched by increased access to foods whose roots are close to home– fresh, organic, and healthier for the local economy and environment.  We will prioritize folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to garden without the support of this program, because our goal is to increase access to healthy, fresh food for all members of our community regardless of income.

To check out stories from 2016 participants, please head over to our blog.

Gardens Program Description:

Garden pic 1

Build It Up is announcing the third year of our Gardening Program!  In 2015 and 2016, we created a total of thirty new backyard gardens and trained thirty families to grow their own food.  This year, we are expanding to 45 gardens, which will include some returning families from our first year.  We are accepting applications to fill up the remaining spots.  You don’t have to have any gardening experience, just an interest in working hard and eating healthy food.  Experienced gardeners are welcome to join our Market Gardener program and grow food for sale to local markets.  Beginning gardeners will be given the option to sell extra produce, but their main focus will be on gaining new skills and using fresh produce at home.

Land Requirements:

Garden pic 3

Applicants need to have access to land for a garden, but do not need to actually own the land used.  If you don’t own property, talk with your landlord, neighbors, family, friends or contact an area community garden to find suitable space.  Garden plots must be at least 20’x25’ (500 square feet) and receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight or more per day.  You will not have a very successful garden if it’s in the shade.  Gardens should be on relatively level ground, with no more than a 5% slope.  Keep in mind also that you don’t want to put a garden in a place that floods or doesn’t drain well during wet weather.  Build It Up is willing to help connect participants with land, so even if you don’t currently have access, please feel free to apply.

What’s Provided:

Garden pic 2

Participants in the program will receive plants, seeds, fertilizer, a hoe and hand trowel, organic pest and disease control, season extension and help with tilling up new gardens.  We can’t supply water access, hoses, shovels, rakes, spades, gloves, mulch, or other supplies.  However, access to these items may make gardening easier for you, so we recommend you have them.  Ask around for anyone with spares or visit a local flea market to pick up tools for cheap.

Who Can Participate:


Anyone who lives within Carter, Unicoi, and Washington Counties, who is interested in growing their own, and who can commit to this year long program is welcome to apply.  Families with children, folks receiving EBT benefits, and youth ages 14-24 are strongly encouraged to apply.

For full program details, please download the 2017 Program Description and read it.  Then fill out our Online Application!