Much continues to sprout and blossom as Build It Up carries out its vision of local food justice and sovereignty, thriving pollinator populations, and growing societal values of ecological literacy and caring stewardship for community lands and gardens in East Tennessee.

At the first Backyard Gardeners workshop Planning Your Garden that took place last month, Build It Up leader Lexy Close guided participants in mapping out their garden for this season. Meanwhile, other Build It Up members hosted a children’s program Young Sprouts, for the little gardeners who had come along. While parents prepared plans for plantings, their children were able to “Meet the Farmer” and learned and played with natural materials, creating bamboo “dream shaker” instruments, with rice and corn seeds inside.

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BIU member cuts sections of bamboo to be used for the children’s bamboo shakers in Young Sprouts.

At the end of the workshop, Build It Up distributed seeds, tools, and plants. The Backyard Gardeners have taken what they need and are running with it! All backyard garden beds have been tilled as needed, and plantings have begun.

Build It Up leaders kept the remaining plants to be distributed to participants who had yet to gather plants for their garden. Steadily, everyone has made the rounds to come by and pick up the plants they need.

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(Above: Program leader Taylor Malone welcomes participants who have come to pick up plants.)

Over at the Science Hill Alternative Center, much is blossoming in the backyard Food Forest of their school grounds, thanks to the care of Build It Up members, especially Alternative Center teacher Sheri Cooper, her team of student gardeners, and committed Build It Up Food Forester Taylor Malone: pear tree, almond tree, blueberry bush blossomings abound. In addition, Cooper and her students are growing cooking shallots, bee balm, snap peas, cabbages, garlic, lettuce, pac choi, elderberries, cilantro, and much more.

Fruit trees and bushes blossom on campus.

(Fruit trees and bushes blossom on campus.)

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(Pictured above: Science Hill Alternative Center student gardeners, along with Sheri Cooper, Employability Skills Coach with inspired vision for the garden’s place in student’s growth and learning.)

Another seed has sprouted in Build It Up community partnerships. Food Forest BIU Coordinator Taylor Malone is appreciative of the formal relationship with the Johnson City Alternative Community Corrections Program, which has grown over time. Individuals who are required to fulfill a certain set of community service hours may now choose to offer their service caring for the Johnson City Food Forests.

Sprinkled throughout April, these community service days have taken place, resulting in beautiful new garden signs, many seeds planted, much caretaking of the edible parks, and the construction of a new picnic table and pavilion, all thanks to the individuals who have chosen to offer their community service on these lands.

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(Above: Mountain Home Food Forest, after a day of tending with individual volunteers with the Alternative Community Corrections program, beautifully painted garden signs, and the Kiwi plant leafing out!)

Over on the other side of town, Build It Up is a partner supporting Shakti in the Mountains’ food and herb gardens. Build It Up members Shae Keane and Taylor Malone have been supporting Shakti’s vision by fetching manure, weeding the beds, planting seeds and plants, helping to begin a garden meditation path, and planting basket willow to create a living fence and arched entryway, to contribute to a feeling of sacred space in the garden.

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Basket Willow planted, in hopes of creating a living fence and an arched entryway grown of willow.

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Volunteers came together to create a “Shakti Garden Calendar” that will list all of the garden activities.

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“Flowers make the heart smile”


In March, BIU members Lexy, Taylor, and Shae attended a local extension office workshop on grafting. In April, they decided to share the seeds of what they had learned by hosting a Build It Up grafting workshop on how local growers can graft branches of their trees in hopes that they become fruit-bearing trees that feed.


Participants first practice on twigs that Taylor gathered before moving to practicing on the available root stock.



We are ever-growing our Build It Up family of community food foresters, gardeners, and pollinator protectors—please contact us if you would like to get involved as a volunteer: