In East Tennessee, especially here on our tiny farm at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, a sound not heard in weeks pleasantly surprised us all by a slow, steady soothing rain yesterday. The sound was so deceptive, televisions, radios, and voices were quietened to make sure it was really true! I spent many years visiting my grandparents farm in an area of Greene County known as Caney Branch. Little did I know the things my grandparents told me would be advice I follow still today. The “red sky at morning, sailors take warning” hasn’t been seen here in weeks. The sweet smell of fall and the crispness in the air tells me the saying “it has never rained too late YET” still reigns true as the sky opened up and gave us all much needed rain.

Bucket Gardens Galore

JJ’s  first year gardening class worked on their take home bucket gardens. A  container garden in the fall and winter can supplement  their own kitchens and provide fresh greens, herbs, and various other food sources during the winter to help offset the cost of grocery stores high prices. Choosing the right vegetables to grow at your own home in a relatively small space no matter what the temperature is well worth the effort.  Our teens are already vested in their home gardens and sharing their growth and success with us regularly with pictures and home visits by the staff to offer suggestions and encouragement.

The Teen Training Program utilizes the commercial kitchen at Rural Resources Farm and Food Education Center to develop lasting social skills and abilities to be successful employees in a variety of job opportunities. The second and third year students are learning the necessary skills to prepare healthy and tasty food to be a support staff for the Teen Pizza program program primarily operated by the fourth year entrepreneurship business class. Hopefully, every teen can serve in every role necessary to continue the success of the pizza initiative. We strive to instill the mindset that every job is important and necessary for our teens to be cross trained to create a seamless flow of product.

As we approach the holiday season, the teens are learning to set a formal table. We started with the very basics an discussed how their families displayed utensils, glassware, dishes, etc. at meal time. Of course, every family does things their own way which is perfectly fine, but these young people want to know what the correct way actually is for most formal settings.  Using a short tutorial and sketching out their own place setting details, to work they went. Each teen prepared a formal place setting using all glass tableware and fine flatware from the kitchen. Just a couple of reference checks resulted in some very quick and accurate skilled employees. The third year class was able to set a formal setting to enjoy the meal prepared by the fourth year class in style.

If someone were to ask you which was worth more, a pound of salt or a pound of gold, the huge majority of you would quickly respond with gold! Is gold really more valuable than salt, one of the world’s oldest preservatives, if there is no food to buy with the gold? The Webster Dictionary defines preservation as “the preparation of food for future use (as by canning, pickling, or freezing) to prevent spoilage.” The fourth year business class worked diligently preparing and preserving the pizza dough for their upcoming fundraiser. The business is doing well and this is just one of the many steps taken in advance to prepare for the monthly fundraiser that helps them keep up with the increasing demand for their pizzas. The students recently sold twenty individual pizzas for a birthday party that complimented the Pokemon theme.  A specialty order usually comes in the form of toppings, but these teens can make anything!

I have only had the privilege of serving as the Teen Training Programs Coordinator with the many programs at Rural Resources for a few weeks. In this short time, I have met so many caring people that work tirelessly with our many programs and have a genuine love for our community. J.J. Mahaffey, our gardener extraordinaire, starts the teens off with a love and understanding for farming, livestock, and ties the loose ends together to get our crops to the table. Chef Rush Bakshi takes the second year students and they become masters of the kitchen. Our director, Sally Causey truly is the “seeker of a cause” to help people. Oh behalf of all the staff at the Farm and Food Education Center at Rural Resources, have an amazing fall and much success to your extended growing season the upcoming months.