A generation or two ago, many rural families depended on their gardens to supply food for the whole year. In the last twenty or thirty years, the skills and know-how for growing and preserving their own food have been lost. Many urban community members live in apartments and don’t have access to enough earth to plant a garden. Community gardens are starting to pop up around the area. Build It Up believes that they are great spaces for teaching new skills and building strong communities.
In 2014, Build It Up received a generous grant from Grow Appalachia to build a new community garden at Whispering Meadows, a Section 8 apartment complex in Erwin, TN. We first met the families at Whispering Meadows when one of our program leaders, Heidi Davis, was working for Second Harvest Food Bank delivering summer lunches to kids in various communities in East TN in 2013. Residents of WM became interested in building the garden after talking with Heidi. Build It Up sought funding from Grow Appalachia, which supports similar projects in five states. For many of the participating families, this was their first experience with growing their own food. We conducted a series of workshops on organic gardening best practices, heart healthy cooking, water bath canning and cool season growing. The 25 raised beds produced close to 1,000 lbs of food in the summer of 2014.