How We Got Started
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 started by working with existing community gardens and organizing educational workshops. In 2014, we received our first grant from Grow Appalachia to build a new community garden at a Section 8 apartment complex in Erwin. In 2015, we started the Backyard Gardeners Program with 10 families. The Backyard Gardeners program now supports 30-40 families annually.
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.
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 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.
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 in recent decades. We support self-sufficiency through the teaching of skills like sustainable gardening, seed saving, cooking and food preservation. We also support agricultural based entrepreneurs to take advantage of increased demand for locally grown and made products.
Since 2012, we’ve helped a lot of people grow their own food!
- Guided 150 families toward food self-sufficiency in our Backyard Gardens Program. Together we’ve raised almost 80,000 lbs of fresh food!
- Helped establish community gardens in Erwin, Johnson City, Jonesborough and Elizabethton.
- Taught hundreds of workshops on gardening, cooking, food preservation, soil health, seed saving, chickens and more!
- Constructed three Food Forests (aka community edible parks featuring perennial fruit and nut trees).
- Partnered with children and youth education programs to train kids ages 5-18 on gardening, cooking, and entrepreneurship.