Build It Up East TN– Sowing Seed, Helping Feed, Inspiring Youth to Take the Lead

Build It Up (BIU) continues to Build It Up in the corner of the world that they love.

There are many beautiful stories that could be shared– too many to count. Here is a glimpse into just a few.

New partnerships and collaborations between Build It Up’s community projects has been a highlight of this last month. “Sowing Seed, Helping Feed, Inspiring Youth to Take the Lead” is their newly defined statement of purpose for these collaborations.

BIU leaders Shae Keane and Taylor Malone have continued developing and enriching their Food Forest Curriculum to guide young people ages 6-12 in the art of food growing and wildcrafting. They aim to support young people in discovering their own agency, power, and belonging through their connection and relationship with the natural world. This is also a project to contribute to reducing food insecurity, by making food-growing education accessible, and by helping them become more familiar with the Mountain Home Food Forest, a public food park for all, where they are welcome to bring family and friends to harvest.

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As part of their programming, Shae and Taylor have begun hosting monthly “Food Forest Friday” events. The most recent one was held last Friday, October 28th. Both the previous Food Forest Friday and this most recent one, brought out over fifty people in attendance, in support of local foods and growing community through people growing and harvesting foods, together.

The theme of this particular Food Forest Friday was “Up With the Sweet Tators; Down with the Corn.” First, everyone cut down the corn stalks that had dried out– with all ages participating, children to parents to elders. Even the smallest toddlers had little pieces of the corn stalk, or stalk leaves, that they carried to the pile. This was my favorite part– witnessing the intergenerational collaboration in the harvest. By the end, we had a very large pile of corn. The corn would become part of our Tuesday weekly Sowing Seeds program with the kids– to have them gather it in bunches to decorate the little Food Forest pavilion for the season.

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After the corn was cut, everyone harvested the sweet potatoes! The children loved discovering them hidden underground.

Following this, we all gathered to share in gratitude together before enjoying our meal– nearly 100% locally harvested and prepared by the Science Hill Alternative Center youth, led by Build It Up leader Sheri Cooper.


uild It Up East TN– Sowing Seed, Helping Feed, Inspiring Youth to Take the Lead

Sheri has received several grants this year that have supported her local foods education with youth. One grant that she has received allows for the young people to be paid for their work harvesting, packaging, and preparing foods that they have grown or for harvesting foods at other farms to sell.

One high school student even helps during our programming with the children each week, which is hugely supportive.

As for our Build It Up Backyard Gardeners program, it is thriving! Build It Up leader Lexy Close is now preparing for the expansion of the program, from being offered to 25 families, to 40 families.

Furthermore, Lexy Close has partnered with community leaders in Carter County to also bring the program to Carter County, where they will create their own Backyard Gardener Program. We hope this will continue to bring food even closer to home, by growing the Build It Up network of support and by partnering with other communities. This is an exciting seed that has sprouted.

As we enter into the late Fall and Winter months, that slow down just a bit, we look to further our initiative for a community Seed Library. We have purchased a very nice organizer, and will be connecting with others to have this set up for use in the Spring, in hopes of making food-growing even more accessible to all.