Rural Resources is alive and well, in Greeneville, TN! Hello there, Debbie Strickland here, reporting in. We are in full gear to put gardens into our homes of our at-risk teens. We have been building beds, hauling dirt, hauling more dirt, and hauling yet more dirt, tilling, having classes, touring greenhouses and a local college, hosting field trips, preparing for an egg hunt at the farm this weekend, welcoming new baby calves, preparing for another baby calf and baby piglets, welcoming new teens, and watching our facility going up! It has been a busy month since last time. The teens have been on spring break and that led to extra classes to touring a local community college, Walters State, and their agriculture department. The teens spent time in the greenhouse with the college students helping them with their plant science experiments. They toured the campus and asked their questions for enrollment and degree majors. The teens left with fresh cuttings of succulents that they began with the students.
The week of spring break and these wildly warm temperatures has us in spring garden fever! All the teens want their gardens in now and plants and seeds now! So, we are trying to get the gardens dug and built, but are trying to keep the teens at bay so they do not start anything too early. This excitement warms my heart that teens want to grow their own food, tend to a project that is there’s, get dirty, eat fresh home grown food, and enjoy all the above with their family. One young lady has shown such interest and passion in our garden program this year. She comes to class with excitement in her eyes, and as soon as she sees you it is always the biggest hello and hug. She asks questions, and is always one of the first to volunteer. She has a passion and a story I would like to share with everyone today!
Molly is in 9th grade at Greeneville High School. Molly has been waiting 4 looong years to participate in our teen program since an older sibling started. She came out with her older sister to visit our farm, and fell in love. I remember her younger brother coming along, and he must have been 3 or 4, playing with my youngest son of maybe 5 or 6 in the leaf pile. They both lost a shoe to the leaves that day. When ever running into Molly, she would ask me if I found that shoe. We finally did, but they were both pretty beaten up from being buried in the leaves. Molly is a special young lady with special dreams and outcomes for her life. Molly was a foster child with special needs when she came to live in her current home, where her adoptive mother fell in love with her and older siblings with special needs. Molly said she loves our program because we offer hands on experience so she can learn by doing. Mom shared that Molly and her other siblings love science. They enjoy going to museums and exploring how things work. Mom says Molly comes home from class and shares what we did and how we did everything in enough detail that mom believes they can all do the exact same thing. Molly is excited about her new home garden bed so she can grow at home with her family and eat fresh vegetables.
Molly’s favorite vegetable is okra! Now for me I do not like okra. Two really good reasons, or at least what I tell myself, they cause me to itch when picking them and when I cut them they are all slimy, YUCK!! 🙂 Molly’s mom shared that they used to only eat okra from the frozen section until they went to a friends house who was cutting fresh okra for a soup. Molly’s mom agreed with the slimy texture when cutting, but fell in love with the taste of the fresh okra. Molly says she will eat anything with okra cooked anyway – fried, baked, soups, anything and only interested in farm fresh okra! Molly and her mom started getting fresh okra from a neighbor and fell in love with it. Molly’s big ambition is to grow okra in her own garden and her mom plans to freeze it for them to use throughout the year.
So, what are Molly’s future plans and dreams? For this summer with her garden, besides growing okra, she plans to share their excess with their neighbors. Two doors down, the vegetable bug bit, as they have begun a couple raised garden beds, inspired by Molly and her family. Another neighbor shares produce they receive from a farmer with Molly’s family. Molly is excited about helping to give back to her neighbors and contribute to the sharing, support, and community they all share. Another ambition for Molly, and when mom shared, goose bumps swarmed my arms, and tears fill my eyes as I write this part. Molly, living with special needs, wants to help and has figured her roll out. Molly’s dream is to own a farm that special needs youth can come and live. There will be cabins to house them and maybe their families. They will be able to learn with hands on experience about gardening, livestock – specifically wrangling a cow which is Molly’s goal in our program, and riding horses. She wants to offer a safe learning environment for other youth that are special, just like her, where they can explore and be themselves. Where encouragement will cause prosperity.
I look forward to seeing Molly get off the bus at each class. She always has a hello, hug, and smile. She has such a passion to learn and participate in everything we are doing. And the best thing, Molly is not afraid to be herself and share her joy with others. I look forward to having Molly in our program over the next 4-5 years and seeing what all she will accomplish!