August in East Tennessee has been hotter and drier than we have had in years. Hopefully this heat and dry weather will not have a negative effect on the beautiful changing of leaves that signals fall is just around the corner. These days we yearn for the rain that plagued many local farmers last spring. The teens that entered our program in January that affectionately refer to themselves as the “Peculiar Pickles. These novice farmers spend their first year exploring the farm, studying planting, identifying and appropriate use of tools, etc. . In early spring as they began working on their gardens, Mother Nature delivered copious amounts of rain to our area complicating the areas to be planted. This obstacle proved to be an additional learning opportunity and an immediate need for adaptation.

The mission at the Farm and Food Education Center is to connect farms, food, and our community by facilitating learning experiences to build a vital and sustainable local food economy. Our vision became full circle when our teens were able to contribute the fruits of their labor by contributing squash, garlic, and flowers grown right here at the Farm and Food Education Center to the annual Incredible Farm Dinner on Main. The dinner is held each year to support the various programs taking place at the center. The much anticipated event in Greeneville/Greene County provides an opportunity for our small town to come together to fellowship and eat an amazing meal prepared expert chefs using foods grown locally.

The teens in the third and fourth years that have participated faithfully over three years are dedicated to business planning and leadership. The teens spend time building a business plan for a food related business that sparks their interest. The current plan being implemented is a pizza business that sets the stage for cooperation and collaboration with all the teen programs here at the center. The tomatoes and many of the spices used for the sauce are grown by the Peculiar Pickles class right here at the Farm and Food Education Center. Each year, as teens graduate out, we add a new group of teens into the program. We are excited with the work that we do, and the partnerships we have to help our work touch so many young lives in our community.

One advantage to growing your own food is having access to fresh products. Although our teens are taught weeds are “unwanted” plants in an area, they are very fluent in identifying an herb. When making pizza sauce recently, there was a need for Rosemary. Using cell phone technology to double check their work, fresh Rosemary was harvested from our hugelkulture garden on site. This type of raised garden bed is perfect for raising herbs.

Stay tuned to see how our fall gardens come along. Each teen will be growing at least one thing at home with help from the staff at the center. Hopefully with skill and luck, they will be having fresh mustard greens very soon on their tables. We here at the Farm and Food Education Center would like to wish all of our fellow fall gardeners much luck incorporating “able to the table.”