It’s been a productive and exciting year which wrapped up with a great trip, organized by Community Farm Alliance, to Athens Ohio for the Green Edge Gardens Season Extension workshop and tour of ACEnet. Lauri, the GA Coordinator, and Bob Taylor, Hospitality House Grants Manager, enjoyed the visit for valuable and experienced insight on social entrepreneurship, business development, and season extension. We hope to incorporate many ideas from the trip into our programs to increase production, involve a wider range of families, and generate revenue. Upon being in a college town in Appalachia that has very similar demographics to Boone, we also visited with other organizations working with the food insecure, low income, and homeless community in Athens.
- The tour of ACEnet introduced us to Community Food Initiatives (CFI) that hosts a Donation Station at the Athens Farmers’ Market, similar to the Farmer Foodshare Donation Station in which we participate at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market. CFI also conducts cooking classes and a school-to-market social entrepreneur program with youth, both of which are the type of programs we seek to improve and/or incorporate.
- We visited with Reuse Industries to see their Tool Library program and discuss the planned Maker Space they will open in early 2017. The Tool Library accommodates members to maintain their homes and complete side projects without the cost of purchasing equipment such as roto-tillers, ladders, table saw, lawn mowers, and even a log-splitter. The combination of the Tool Library and Maker Space will facilitate business enterprises for those who have marketable skills but lack the capital to obtain tools and work space.
- At Good Works, we learned about the guidelines of their homeless facility, the Timothy House, a 15-bed facility in the western part of downtown Athens. To foster personal growth and accountability, their supportive services are structured around week- or month-long contracts with residents that are either a week or a month long. Having no capacity to shelter individuals with on-going substance abuse issues, such individuals must seek housing elsewhere despite there being no other homeless service provider in the community. They coordinate Transformation Station, a sweat equity volunteer program in which low wealth individuals may work on the grounds or in the community to earn appliances, housewares, or automobiles donated to Good Works. They also operate a bed and breakfast and a 10,000 Villages gift shop that generate revenue for the organization.
One initiative facilitated through Ohio University and ACEnet sparked great interest to us, and it is one that we may be able to incorporate in part in the 2017 growing season. A nutritionist at Ohio U is working on a food dehydration program with food insecure households as a method of getting them access to fresh foods out-of-season. Hospitality House plans to add food dehydrators to our kitchen in 2017, and we are excited to learn from ACEnet the successes and challenges experienced by this research program. 2017 promises to be another exciting year.