“Rags” to “Riches”

Good evening from Greeneville, TN.  Debbie Strickland here, just biting at the bit to get everything up and going this year!  We have started the year off with some beginning planning classes and an orientation.  We are welcoming 15 new teens into our program and continuing to work with our seasoned teens.  We are hoping to have about 30 total garden spaces this year between our new and seasoned teens with stress on education and food security as many of these teens and families struggle meeting their food needs.  We were to meet today for our big garden planning class with our new teens, but after getting back from the Grow Appalachia Gathering, I received a call from our local school system.  Apparently the flu has taken off this week and many students and teachers have been out sick, so our school system will be closed Monday.  We decided the best interest was to cancel our class and reschedule in another week or two instead of helping to spread the bugs around.  I hope everyone will be okay and not catch that nasty bug!  Here are some pictures during this past month:


Taylor was harvesting our turnips and our lonely single cherry bell radish that we missed in November.  (the cherry bell is our top featured image!  I couldn’t believe how big it grew!  Also, notice that behind Taylor you can see a concrete slab for our future training facility.  Further down you will see the progress in one month’s time!)



Our first class meeting with our new teens!  Taylor is getting them excited about their potential gardens at home.  She sent them home with homework.  They are to talk with their parents, select a site, and get us their measurements so we can begin planning their needs.



Teens excited to see each other at our orientation in January!


As our beginning to a brand new year starts, I stop and plan our new year, but this year is more important.  We are under construction, finally!  Our new training facility is going up that will bring such a drastic impact to our teen training program.  There will be a training room for the teens, a large meeting space for our special events and functions, and a certified commercial kitchen!  The kitchen will open new avenues for our teens learning and development of independence.  We are in the process of developing a social enterprise that will involve our teens during their business training curriculum and how the kitchen will be a benefit to our community, including allowing the teens and their families to be able to can and process foods for consumption or resale.  Many ideas are passing through our brains, narrowing has begun, and surveys have gone out.  This will be an exciting step towards a brighter future!  Here is the progress of our building:

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As the new year starts with this new chapter in our lives, I cannot help but sit back and reflect on why?  Why do we do what we do?  Is what we are doing making a difference or an impact?  Are we creating change?  Does all of this matter, or is it a waste for not?  After attending the Grow Appalachia Gathering, and connecting with a former teen attending Berea College, allowed me to reflect on our history and realize that what we do is meaning, impacting, and life changing for many.  I was also reminded of a video that this teen, Faelyn Campbell, put together to tell us her story of “rags” to “riches”.  No, rags do not mean she wore them.  Rags is more of a resemblance of the struggles and challenges Faelyn and her family faced, and the riches are the rewards they reaped from learning and conquering those challenges or struggles.  Faelyn has been involved in some way, shape, or form with Rural Resources since she was in about kindergarten, along with her three other sisters.  I am honored to work with this family as all the girls:  Corina, Rhiannon, and Faelyn have been a part of our teen program, and their youngest sister Ren, is currently participating.  Their parents have been extremely supportive of their girls and encouraged them to follow their dreams, and embrace the programming at Rural Resources.  I would like to share a video Faelyn filmed explaining her and her families trip throughout their years with Rural Resources.  This is why we do what we do!  So, it is about 30 minutes, pull up your chair, pop your favorite popcorn (for me it’s out of my garden), and enjoy hearing from a remarkable young lady!  Here is a link to the video!  I finally figured it out!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukVUWJ2mhbc

About the Author:

I am from a farming community in Indiana where my family farmed over 200 acres. As a teen, my family moved to Florida where I became heavily involved in 4-H and developed a love for service and passing knowledge onto others. I graduated and began working at the local girls club while attending college for a Business/Administration degree. I realized that teaching youth was my passion and stayed at the girls club for 12 years before moving to East Tennessee. In East Tennessee I was able to reconnect with my farming roots and began a home garden. In growing, I tapped further into my roots and began canning and freezing food for my family. Really enjoying putting to use all the long hours working on the farm in my youth and realizing how important that was for me to learn, I wanted to get back into teaching youth again! Skimming help wanted adds, led me to Rural Resources who was looking for a coordinator to run their Farm and Food Teen Training Program. All my loves in one - youth at-risk, farming, gardening, cooking, and business planning! What a wonderful life to share my passions with others, play on the farm, enjoy local home cooked food, and advance these youth to a better future! Here I have been for 6 beautiful, happy, and productive years!


  1. hollykorb February 13, 2017 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    It was so wonderful to meet Faelyn, Debbie! She certainly is an inspiring young lady 🙂 And the new building looks great!!

    • debbiestrickland February 14, 2017 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Thank you Holly! I am hoping since Faelyn actually met you all, again, lol she will come visit you. Especially you! She was very excited that you were also a biology major. She is an inspiring young lady, and we have many stories that we really need to document. Have a great day!

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