With garden planning and greenhouse season upon us, we begin anew with our new group of amazing, energetic, inquisitive, enthusiastic, intelligent, and well, awesome teens!  We are looking forward to a great year with all “this” going on with this group.  In Greene County of East Tennessee, Rural Resources is rocking it with adding these awesome teens to our existing super awesome teens.  You could not ask for a better bunch of youth than what is born and raised here in our own soil.

These teens have been busy with our new Garden & Livestock Grazing Manager, Matt Coyle.  Matt has been helping them think through their garden plans.  They have learned the vegetable families, what belongs to each family, and understanding all the different vegetables or fruits that can be grown in our area.  Many teens mentioned carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, and lettuce.  What about onions, leeks herbs, radish, kohlrabi, spinach, kale, mustard, arugula, sweet potatoes, peas, soy beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dry beans, popcorn, Indian corn, squash, pumpkins, and the list goes on of possibilities.  With better understanding of so many options, thoughts and ideas have begun.  Here are a few of the garden ideas thus far:

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With gardens in the planning, we introduced the teens into the greenhouse to begin plant starts that we know everyone will want – tomatoes and peppers!  We will be working on more, and I think I have found Matt working on other plant starts for our garden at the farm and for the teens in their home gardens.  We will be overseeing 30-35 gardens with teens this summer.  This equates to several plant starts for the season.  Getting a jump start:

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Well, what is up with “V” TEAM?  I am SO glad you asked!  Matt and I have been sitting with the group this past month, getting to know them better, and having them thinking of ideas for a group name.  After passing many ideas out, a couple I plan to remember for future groups, the majority of the group decided “V” TEAM fit them.  Can you guess what the “V” stands for… tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock… any takers?  Did I hear someone say vegetable?  Well, you are absolutely right!  Throw a bunch of carrots your way!  We thought this was a pretty creative name for them, and well related to what we are implanting in these young minds – vegetables!  They will learn how to grow them, how to cook them, and learn to love those things they shove under the table to their dogs.  What fun this ride will be – exhilarating!  The next few months will have much to show with home visits to see where the teens and families decided to place their gardens; gardening curriculum classes; garden site preparations; seed orders; soil amending; and a field trip to Harvest Table Restaurant and Harvest Table Farm in Abingdon, VA for a close look at what goes into a farm to table restaurant.  Teens are buzzing with the chance for a road trip!  How exciting it will be to pull in and see high tunnels growing lettuce and root crops for the restaurant and then turning around and eating that produce at a business.  Pretty exciting stuff!

On top of this, I was able to visit one of my most favorite places in the Appalachia, and visit with some amazing people doing awesome work around the region.  All Grow Appalachia sites converged on Berea College in historical Berea, KY to network, get down to brass tactics for growing food, welcome new faces to the family, and touch basis with what everyone is up too.  It’s always an amazing trip with lots of information jammed into 1 and 1/2 days.  I always leave feeling reassured about what I am doing, how to do it and do it well, and seeing the impact that Grow Appalachia makes across the region.  So much hard work from our mother ship helps to keep all the sites moving forward to make the greatest impacts in the region around food production that is helping our low income families.  I am glad to be a part of this family, and look forward to amazing work this year that will impact our local region and help to make the increased change in the Appalachia region.