Build It Up East TN was pleased to host David Cooke for a day in Johnson City, TN.  David arrived in the afternoon and was met by BIU Program Leaders, Lexy and Taylor.  Everyone piled into Lexy’s luxurious (and only slightly beat up) ’97 Corolla and drove out for a visit to our project site at the Whispering Meadows housing area in Unicoi, TN.

While Unicoi County used to be home to over one thousand farms in the 1940s, there are fewer than 85 today.  Much of the county is classified as a food desert by the USDA.  Driving through Unicoi, there is evidence that gardens are still a mainstay of family life—but it’s limited to those who are able to own or rent single family houses.  Behind Whispering Meadows, there is a large, gently sloping field, around 3 acres in size.  Up until now, residents have not had access to the resources needed to start their own gardens.  We hope to jump-start the process by providing raised beds, tools, seeds and know-how to get families started. Hopefully in future years, we’ll be able to convert more of the field into garden space.

In the back field, Taylor and Lexy visioned with Dave about what the new community garden will soon look like.  David offered lots of sage advice, and we look forward to our garden building day in a few short weeks.  We have found local sources for wood, nice garden soil and are talking with an organic co-op about sourcing our plants. It’s spring in East Tennessee and the air is filled with fresh possibilities!

Later that night, David gave a talk at East Tennessee State University.  ETSU hosts Earth Month every year in April, and invited David to be a part of a great line-up of speakers, movies and other fun events.  We had an audience of about 25 folks and they all appeared to enjoy David’s story-filled talk about the history of Grow Appalachia.  He even brought one of his favorite hoes along!


Build It Up is thankful that David made the long drive from Berea to Johnson City!  We hope he’ll be back again soon!