Two-and-a-half years ago, my children and I made a difficult move to the beautiful Tri-Cities region of Tennessee. We didn’t know anyone but felt at home in the midst of the mountain views and lush vegetation. I was quickly blessed with a wonderful job where I get to make a difference in the lives of low-income elderly people.
As rewarding as that has been, something was still missing. I have always wanted to provide my family healthy food I could trust, but I have been unable to afford organic foods on a consistent basis. In my mind, the only way to accomplish this would be to grow it myself. Beyond that, I would love to be able to grow food on a large scale, to make sustainably raised produce available to the public at affordable prices.
I’ve done some gardening in the past, but I knew nothing about gardening in clay soil, like what we have in Tennessee. I knew nothing of our particular pests, common weeds, or plant diseases. I didn’t even know what poke weed was! My first attempt at gardening in Tennessee was, in fact, a disaster. I wasn’t strong enough to use the tiller I rented, so my plot was only partially tilled. I planted anyway, but did nothing to prepare the soil or keep up with weeding. Surprisingly, I did get some crops, but not enough to put a dent in my food budget and certainly not enough to sell. And it was awful to look at.
When I learned about the Build It Up program, I seized the opportunity. And I am so glad I did. The leaders have given countless hours of their time to work alongside us, educate us, and provide many resources. I now have a beautiful garden that produces high-quality produce at a rate I can barely keep up with. I have been able to feed my family with the produce I’ve grown, sell some of it, and give some of it to many grateful tenants.