MMMM…. Apple butter!  We made apple butter yesterday, but that story later.  Now, after I have gotten your attention with the picture, this is Debbie, Appalachia Cares Americorp member,  from Rural Resources in Greeneville, TN.  I had every intention to talk about our apple butter making, corn hole contest, chickens 101, and garden updates, but I spent time this morning in memory lane with a former teen, and want to share!

A bright and artistic young lady, who used to be in our program about 4 or 5 years ago, was home visiting this weekend.  She had moved to Ohio with her family when she was a freshman in high school.  We have stayed in contact through facebook over the years, and have caught up a few times when she has come home for a visit.  She is now 19, and still as bright and artistic as always!  We had just a couple of hours together this morning before her and her family have to go back to Ohio.  Her and her friend from Ohio sat and talked with me over biscuits and gravy.  She recalled memories of her cooking class and cookies they had made with orange peelings.  She really wanted to see the farm and show her friend the place where her memories and stories stemmed from.  As we sat and talked more, she said she had learned so much and was thinking of going to college for agriculture from the involvement in the teen training program.

As the rains subsided a bit, we decided to drive out to the farm for her friend to see, and for her to visit her “teen” hood farm family.  She further remembered the rabbits we started while she was still here, and where she helped to build one of the cages.  She remembered milking the cow in the milk parlor, and the pigs who had recently come to the farm when she was in the program.  As we pulled in the drive, the garden was definitely bigger than when she was in the program.  She could remember the carrots they had planted and pulled out of the grown.  She was excited to share the learning experiences that she learned at the farm in a unique program that she has not seen or heard of other organizations doing.  The business training that helped them learn real world work experiences; the leadership retreat she had went on and the fun she had and the things she learned; the vermi-composting class they lead at the farmers market; the composting tea they made and how well the plants loved I; the soups they made from the vegetables out of the garden; the family ties!  How she would love to move back to Greeneville, TN, and is desperately trying to talk her friend into it, so she can come visit and volunteer at our farm again!

Can there ever be a better answer as to why we do the work that we do?!  Many times I sit and wonder if we are making a difference with our teen program, are teens understanding, are they learning, are we changing behaviors, are we meeting their needs, are we equipping them for the future, are we making an impact?  Then, I run across my answer, like today.  Through programs such as Grow Appalachia, we are able to touch, change, and impact lives.  This is not just a job, but as I have been told, a ministry.  What better job can someone have than to make a difference/impact on a youth.  Are our youth not our future?  Are they not the ones who will be there to take care of us?  Will they not be the new innovators, presidents, leaders of our communities?  Are they not the future to the livelihood of America?  They most certainly are!  By encouraging, teaching, and hopefully making an impact, we will have new young adults, such as this, who are ready to face the world and want an opportunity to make an impact themselves – whether it be as a leader or in an industry such as agriculture.  It will take everyone to continually change the world for the best and improve upon what is in existence.  These impacts are only possible by the interest each one of us take.  What better impact can we make than to give a child the opportunity to know they can change, they can make a change, and to be involved in growing food for future security!  Yes, this is why I am blessed to be working with some of the most amazing youth around, and honored to be doing what we do.

Always remember why you are doing what you do, the differences you are making – even if they do not seem large at the time, they have definitely changed or impacted someone and made a big change in them! Thanks for the wonderful visit down memory lane today!