Now into the later spring, we look back upon a well-seeded start to the season, and look forward to summer seeding yet to come. Throughout the Johnson City Food Forests, the Johnson City Alternative Center, and family backyard gardens– life abounds!
Build It Up Backyard Gardeners have planted out their home backyard gardens and farms, and continue to further their skills and knowledge through their own experiences growing and through the Build It Up workshops, like the April Planting Your Garden workshop, in which Lexy Close guided Gardeners in the art and practice of spring plantings, along with practical skills such as arranging trellises, pounding the stakes, and watering and mulching transplants. Meanwhile, Shae Keane, with the help of volunteer high school students and community members, hosted the children’s food literacy and garden programming for the Backyard Gardener little ones, which included the creation of hand-crafted garden signs that the children made for their family gardens.
(Meanwhile, the Backyard Gardener children created garden signs for their family gardens and listened to garden stories.)
At the close of the workshop, participants picked up plants that Build It Up had started in the greenhouse.
A few weeks later, towards the beginning of May, Gardeners met Sheri Cooper at the Alternative Center to gather up the last of the spring/ early summer seeds and seedlings, like eggplant, basil, cucumbers, and many varieties of peppers.
As for the Build It Up-sponsored edible parks, not only have the plants been transforming, but also the park structures. Thanks to the support of individuals of the Alternative Community Corrections and the Rotary Club, working in partnership with Build It Up program coordinator Taylor Malone, a wooden tool shed is now near completion at the Tree Streets Food Forest on Buffalo Street. In addition, a hand-crafted black-locust wood pavilion is now finished at the Mountain Home Food Forest, complete with a wooden picnic table beneath.
Build It Up children’s program coordinator Shae Keane has taken advantage of this special addition to the edible park environment. Soon after the completion of the pavilion, Shae hosted a Build It Up local food literacy homeschooling program at the Mountain Home Food Forest in which students, primarily Backyard Gardener children, spent time connecting with the plants and learning about plant anatomy, identification, planting, and the importance of expanding food access in public spaces. The children responded enthusiastically to the programming, asking to be invited back— though perhaps the most enthusiastic of all was a young boy who exclaimed at the end,
“You must tell me about any other farming or gardening, I want to come…. These [Food Forests] should be all over the world!”
Soon after, the Patrol Kids Program partnered with Build It Up for yet another children’s food literacy program at the Mountain Home Food Forest. In the past, these children’s sweet voices can be heard on their way up, calling out, “Going to the garden!; Going to the garden!”– and they sounded no less excited this time. This was the first time these children, who all live in close proximity to the Mountain Home Food Forest, had seen the pavilion and bench, largely constructed by Alternative Community Corrections members, who had been there earlier that day adding finishing touches in preparation for the children’s first visit to experience the new structures. At the siting of the unexpected surprise, the children quickly piled into the two sides of the bench. Following a brief discussion on growing food and the purpose of edible parks, the children followed on a edible plant walk and then painted garden signs that would soon be added to the Food Forest to communicate the food that is available.
Neighboring children have shown up in the last few weeks to enjoy the pavilion as well, which sits right alongside a bed of spinach, turnips, and beets (see below photo).
“Wait— this is where spinach comes from?”
a little girl asks as she pulls a leaf off and takes a bite— reminding us why these edible parks matter.
In addition to all the beautiful sprouts and blossoms that abound, yet another surprise unfolded in late May: Build It Up received news that their grant submission: Neighborhood Nutritional Literacy and Place-Based Education at Johnson City’s Urban Food Forests was accepted as one of the partnering recipients of a $100,000 grant offered through the local Washington County Community Foundation, along with yet another grant submitted by a Build It Up program coordinator Sheri Cooper on behalf of Johnson City Schools, entitled Science Hill Alternative Center “Earn 2 Learn Life Lab”: Youth Economic Self-Sufficiency Platform, which will, among other things, expand opportunities for young people to access education and work related to local farming and agriculture. With several members of Build It Up partnering with a few other organizations to grow local food education and fresh food access, it is an exciting time to continue planting seeds together, admiring the life that sprouts forth.