5 a.m. Wednesday morning I was awaken to not rain showers but a down pour, as my heart sank for the day ahead. Debbie here, Appalachia Cares/Americorps at Rural Resources in East Tennessee, reporting in on our monumental event! Wednesday came with many showers and down pours, but this did not stop us from welcoming guests, from near and far, and proceeding with the plans we had worked so hard for in the past couple weeks, but really started back in 2009. On Good Friday, 2009, we had a severe thunderstorm that rolled through our Rural Resources’ home. Not knowing then, we were devastated when lightning struck a tree behind our office, causing a hot flaming blaze in no time at all, and everything we knew was gone! Many people came out of the floor boards and offered words of encouragement, hours of help with clean up, donations of equipment and money to pick up and begin anew, and that is exactly what we have done! The community rallied together to help us envision a brighter, better, more impactful Rural Resources! With this energy, plans were laid to begin a vision for a new building that would encompass all our programs – offering potential for growth and a future for the community’s education and support of local food. Community members came together to design and raise funds for a new training facility, pictured above. This facility became in the realm of short-term goals last year as the ARC – Appalachian Regional Commission and Rural Development granted us funds to support our endeavor, with matching funds from many wonderful organizations and individuals!
Yesterday we met under this tent, borrowed from our local Farm Credit, where we out lasted the down pours and rain to have our official groundbreaking for our new Farm and Food Learning Center! We were joined by many guests from local, regional, and national supporters. The pores held off for our ceremony as we welcomed many guests and heard many wonderful speeches from some amazing people! We were welcomed by Sally Causey, Executive Director, and Joyce Doughty, Chair of the Board.
Our County Mayor followed with words of encouragement and support, which he has given throughout our process. Mayor David Crum greeted guests and welcomed the vision of a facility that will help the whole of Greene County. He also spoke of the rain, and how this was not a bad thing on such a fine day, but a blessing that farmers will take, as farmers realize rain is what makes food grow and grow a better local economy. Also, one of the original founders addressed the guests. For me, I was very inspired to hear in Karen Childress’ own words the reasoning her family developed Rural Resources back in the early 1990s. She spoke of how her family learned so much about farming from her father-in-law and the need to keep farms thriving in the area. They realized an organization was needed to support small farms, educate the community, and bring awareness of supporting your local economy. I cannot give justice to Mrs. Childress (or any other speakers for that matter) on the vision they had in developing this organization. I have heard the story many of times, but to hear from one who sat and thought all this out, was truly amazing! I still get goose bumps just thinking about it! What adventures we have been down since then, and I am sure, more are still coming.
The architect of the project, David Wright, said a few words about the process of taking our original plans and scaling them down to create a usable facility with in our funding opportunities. He commented on how much fun this project was to work with and create! But, to me, one of the most important highlights was our teen participant, Amanda Peryea. She delivered an amazing speech that had everyone buzzing afterwards and very impressed! She has given me permission to share her speech, which had me crying like a baby by the end! Amanda was joined on stage by Zoe and Faelyn Campbell, two other teen participants who expressed their sentiments to individuals about our programs.
Hey y’all! My name is Amanda Peryea. I go to Greeneville High School and I’m in my 3rd year of the Farm and Food Training Program here at Rural Resources. I am most looking forward to the new kitchen because we no longer have to go to other churches or cram into the mobile kitchen just to cook. Even though we are grateful for both those places!
Another reason we are so excited for this building is because we will have real bathrooms! I mean outhouses are fun and all but real ones are even better, so the bathroom will be a great improvement for this farm in general. Also, with this new building we will no longer be in the chicken coop office. It’s a cute little room, but there is just no space. We, as teens, are so excited for this building to expand our room and our learning. This building will help all of the different groups in the teen program. It will help the program to expand by having more convenience to the supplies we need, and also the space we need.
As I continue to move further in the program, I just seem to get more excited for what is next! The first year was awesome. We got to learn how to grow and maintain our own food, and learn all about livestock. Then the next year we got to use local foods to make our own food. Which I can take home to share with my family. Then as the third year begins you learn how to conduct your own business. This is an awesome experience especially for me since I wanna own my own business one day. This program has influenced me so much, my life and my future!
This building will help with us with not having to dig in through totes to get stuff for class. It will save time and give us more time to learn.
This program really does connect farms, food, and families. It connects to farms because we are a growing farm, and get produce from other farms too. It connects food because that is what Rural Resources is all about. Food is our business. We grow our own food and cook it. It also helps connect families because all of the teens in this program have some kind of financial need at home! That is one of the reasons we get a small pay for each class. That little bit of money can go a long way! This program has also taught me how to be a better person, to set goals for what I want in life, to have respect for everyone around. It has taught me how to lead without a title, how to impact a community in just small ways, how to always say thank you and to never be mean. This program is about the farm but it is also about character. This program helps teens grow, and be who they are. I’m so blessed to be a part of a great organization as Rural Resources. I’m so thankful for Debbie, Sally, and other teachers who mentored me in this program. I don’t know where I’d be without y’all!
I want to thank all of y’all for supporting the teen program and also Rural Resources. We are and hope to continue to have a big impact on the community, but we can’t do it without your help. Let’s get this building built!
So many people came up and shared how impressed they were with Amanda’s speech. One person commented that I looked like a proud momma!
Soooo, our program did not end here. We had three very important guests join us – Mike McClamrock, President of East Tennessee Foundation; Guy Land, Chief of Staff Appalachian Regional Commission; and Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary for Rural Development of the United States Department of Agriculture. Each of these representatives addressed everyone with words of encouragement for our programs, building, and future impact of our community.
At the conclusion Becky Yonz recited a poem she had written about the farm. I will be checking with her to receive a copy of this poem and post it in the future. It told the whole story and was so beautiful! Then, we broke ground for our new building!
From left to right: Sally Causey, Executive Director; Joyce Doughty, Chair of the Board; Amanda Peryea, teen participant; Zoe Campbell, teen participant; Faelyn Campbell, teen participant; David Wright, architect; Buddy and Becky Yonz, members and Capital Campaign Committee; Lisa Mensa, Under Secretary Rural Development United States Department of Agriculture; Mike McClamrock, President East Tennessee Foundation; Guy Land, Chief of Staff Appalachian Regional Commission; David Crum, Greene County Mayor; Dr. Daniel Donaldson, former board member and Capital Campaign Committee; Karen Childress, Co-Founder Rural Resources.
We all joined in a meal prepared by Melissa Rebholz, Appalachia Cares/AmeriCorps serving as our farmer. The meal was mostly sourced with local produce.
But, at the end I saw, what I felt, was the most impressive site! Lisa Mensah sat and ate lunch with my three young ladies. They spoke of their experiences in the program, their goals and dreams, and I am sure everything else. I was taken away with her interest in these teenagers from Greene County, and very impressed that she gave her time to speak and interact with them. I unfortunately did not get an opportunity to meet and talk with Ms. Mensah, but I would not have wanted to speak with her more than the time she spent with these girls. This will be a time these girls will cherish forever and remember that a Washington official gave of herself to spend time with them! A wonderful day indeed!!
And just a quick thank you to Patty Campbell and Melissa Rebholz for sharing their pictures of the day!