The last few months have been full of summer’s abundance.

Towards the end of May, Build It Up hosted the Maintaining Your Garden workshop for the Backyard Gardeners. This workshop was held a unique location— Serenity Knolls Farm, located in Jonesborough, TN. This provided Gardeners, both the youngers and the adults, the opportunity to see garden maintenance in an organic farm setting. Camille, who is the Farm Manager at Serenity Knolls, presented gardeners with new information and insight related to taking care of their plants, along with answering their questions. The entire families took part in Camille’s tour of the farm and then children and parents parted ways so that the adults could continue learning from Camille and children could begin the usual Build It Up Young Sprouts programming.


The youth programming at this workshop focused on how to identify plants, especially herbs, and how to prepare a fresh garden salad. The children were excited to be learning and identifying new plants through sight, touch, smell, and taste, and perhaps even more excited to be preparing their handmade salads, which many planned to surprise their parents with at the end of the workshop.

The Young Sprouts children explored herbs like sage, yarrow, cilantro, and dill. They tore pieces of mixed lettuce for the base of their salad, and added the herbs that they liked, along with a sage, honey, vinegar, and garlic dressing. Some ate their salad right on the spot— others saved it as a gift. All of these ingredients, except for the honey and vinegar, were harvested from Pedro’s Food Forest in Johnson City, making it a truly local meal.

photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photo 7 photo 8

Local foods and food-growing education for young people is a Build It Up passion. Not long after this workshop, Shae Keane, a BIU community food educator, began teaching a month-long immersion course for high school students on Local Food Literacy and Food Justice, sponsored by the Upward Bound program. As part of this program, students were offered learning opportunities at two local BIU Food Forests— Pedro’s Food Forest and the Mountain Home Food Forest. As part of this course, Taylor Malone, BIU Food Forest farmer, hosted a special educational tour and exploration for these young people at the Mountain Home Food Forest, which is pictured below. Several students have since put together plans for beginning their own community Food Forests. When given the opportunity to write letters to people they met throughout the program, several of them addressed theirs to Taylor, thanking him for creating these spaces.

photo 19

Taylor and Tyler harvest a carrot together.

photo 20photo 10

 photo 11 photo 12 photo 13 photo 14 photo 15 photo 16 photo 17 photo 18


About 70 sweet potato plants in the ground at the Mountain Home Food Forest, with walkways lined in grass.

Below are some of the food plants growing at Pedro’s Food Forest– raspberries, dill, and corn!

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

Also this month, Build It Up hit the ground running on site visits, determined to make it to every one of the 25-five gardens. At this point, they have made the rounds to 22 gardens, hopping between Elizabethton, Bristol, Johnson City, and Jonesborough to answer questions and celebrate the summer growth at each one.

photo 5

Sweet little Heather shows us how to harvest a baby carrot.

photo 3

Visiting with Angie and her daughters at their garden:

photo 1 photo 2

Towards the mid-month, Build It Up hosted the first of two Canning and Food Preservation workshop for Backyard Gardeners, with Lexy Close providing delicious demonstrations of several recipes to use in canning zucchini and making pickles. The BIU team made the decision to separate the workshops into two, thus allowing for more room for chopping, food prepping, and individualized instruction. A few young people who were old enough for this workshop came along as well.

photo 7

One of our youngers (middle) helps place the tops on each jar for canning.

photo 3 photo 4 photo 5photo 6

Right after the second canning workshop on June 28, around 8:30p, the Melendez family, committed Backyard Gardeners, surprised Build It Up educator Shae when they showed up unexpectedly and offered their support in planting the young tomato and pepper plants she had brought along to be placed in the ground. Their mother, Holly, explained that her children were pleading to visit the Food Forest just briefly before they went home. Their care, support, and joyous company is so greatly appreciated. Little Joshy offered again and again, “Can I plant another one?,” “Can I plant another one?” What a sweet surprise to see them all hop out of their van and outstretch their hands, ready to help.

photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photo 7 photo (2)

Though the summer season has been particularly dry, hot , and sunny, making it feel like summer has only just begun– it is already that time to begin thinking about and starting Fall plants. Thus, these plantings will take place in the next few days, so that Backyard Gardeners will be supplied with a large selection of additional food plants come this Fall, in hopes of continuing to support the immense beauty that these families are growing, beginning from little plants and seeds.