Mismatched Misfits, Mother Earth News Fair, and More!

This month we are finally harvesting our first lettuces and kale. Our kohlrabi and radishes need one more rain before they are ready to come out of the ground. The original plan was to plant broccoli solely in the fall, however, we decided to take a chance this spring. Unfortunately, our broccoli plants might end up being the sacrifice to the flea beetles. We had the first lettuce mix harvest this morning! This lettuce will be used in wraps the teens are making for an event this weekend and the rest will be sent home with them. Here are our first strawberries of the season as well!


Our Farm and Food Teen Training Program has been quite busy this spring! The newest garden group finally chose their group name, “Mismatched Misfits.” During April, the Mismatched Misfits helped us prepare two garden beds including shaping it, removing weeds, and digging furrows and holes. The teens then applied compost and fertilizer. We planted onions, kale, and sowed beets! Last week we had a smaller group so we were able to go more in depth during class. We discussed raised vs. in-ground beds regarding cost, soil, maintenance, and weed management. During this time we also covered the definition, purpose, and various uses of herbs. One teen kept talking about spices so we talked about how many herbs are dried and made into spices. We hope to experiment with that sometime this fall now that we have our new dehydrator. Our perennial herbs are establishing themselves already in one of our raised beds. We mixed in some annuals like malabar spinach and cilantro. We are hoping to incorporate all of these herbs on our pizzas this year. As we talked about the raised beds here at the Rural Resources Farm we discussed design and how to appropriately space plants. We reviewed our example bed and encouraged them to design and plant the other two beds with beneficial flowers that will attract bees and other pollinators. As we planted we talked about the use and importance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the garden. The teens mixed in Harmony, an OMRI-listed high nitrogen fertilizer, to encourage leaf growth in our flowers.


Meanwhile, our older teens have been busy utilizing our fancy new dehydrator! They tried out some apples recently and the results were delicious. The teens had a class in March covering knife skills that will hopefully benefit the preparation work for more dehydrated food. We are looking forward to harvesting more food from the garden that will be added on top of our pizzas like herbs and tomatoes! Speaking of ‘maters, we thankfully had a dry spell last week and got the first tomatoes in the ground. They received a good amount of rain over the weekend and we are excited for summer crop eating! We are going to plant a few more successions over the next few weeks to ensure we can have plenty of tomatoes. Hopefully we will have an abundance of food preservation ahead of us!


Mother Earth News Fair

A highlight this spring was the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, North Carolina. We decided to take a few teens who have previously expressed interest in learning more about agriculture.  There were so many exhibits and speakers; we had a great weekend! One of the group’s favorite workshops was a demonstration for building a pizza oven out of cob. The instructor spoke about getting the right mix of dirt and straw to use as well as detailing how to add a chimney and cutting out a door. The teens were able to get involved and help out as well! One of my favorite workshops was a farmer who utilizes cold frames to grow vegetables during winter. Hopefully we will have a class on growing carrots and crops through the winter using high tunnels and cold frames.


The teens had the opportunity to sit through a variety of workshops.  While debriefing with them we talked about discovering new and interesting methods of growing their own food, harnessing solar power, and more. The teens also enjoyed learning about using plants and herbs for other uses including making teas and salves. Everyone enjoyed stopping by the livestock barn to visit the animals. We pet baby goats, visited sheep, and talked to Watusi cows. One teen and I received a short, hands-on lesson in spinning yarn using a drop spindle. There were so many things to learn about and experience so at times it was a bit overwhelming, but we all had a great weekend and even brought home a new incubator given to us at the fair!


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. Maria Arnot May 17, 2018 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Amazing thoughts while reading your blog! 1. I need to visit a Mother Earth News Fair. 2. Pizza kits! We just started doing herbs this year for our CSA boxes and your blog gave me idea of putting together a pizza kit with herbs and tomatoes and recipe on how to make their own sauce, what an amazing idea. Thanks so much!

    • debbiestrickland July 11, 2018 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      Hey there, Maria! Yeah, our teens really enjoyed the fair. There are so many things to see, taste, and learn! That sounds like a wonderful idea. We enjoy getting the teens to try new recipes with herbs and spices. Hope your CSA boxes are going well!

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