Garden visits have started here at Build It Up East TN. We have enjoyed the start to garden visit season and getting to see our gardeners spaces first hand. All gardens are special and have their own unique magic and it is fun to see what sparks connection and interest in each of our participants.

One of our garden visits took place in the backyard of an old, old house, in Tennessee’s oldest town on a plot of land that has been lovingly brought back to life by the house’s third generation occupants. While on the tour our gardener shared memories of what the garden looked like when his grandparents grew in the same spot during his childhood. The pear tree that he grew up eating from is still in the ground and after a less than productive year, he and his partner trimmed back the dead branches and opened up the canopy just a bit. By the time of my visit the pear tree was covered in pears ready to ripen over summer. The garden, just as the pear tree, had spent years without love and care but is now brimming with life!

The couple have lovingly brought the garden back to life and the pear tree along with it. They have shared the joys of the garden with the next generation of their family as well. They took a canning class last year, during their first year of Build It Up, and have put up a lot of their own tomatoes. Their boys helped prep the tomatoes for canning and have tasted a number of dishes fresh from the garden. 

Another gardener greeted us with Viriginia Jumbo Peanuts, grown in the county she grew up in. She eagerly showed us the peanuts growing in her garden – a different variety better suited to our East TN climate. She also proudly showed off the restored Ford tractor of her father’s that she grew up with on their small farm in rural Virginia. The garden for her is very much a connection to her family members who have since passed and the place she grew up in. 

It is a beautiful thing to get to see first hand how gardening and food connect people through time and space. To hear about four generations of the same family, on the same land, growing their own food and putting it up for the winter. To see the physical and plant connections that link family members through the ages are such a gift. Gardening at first glance seems to be about the soil, seeds, and plants, but if you look closely, gardens are full of stories about families, migration, memories and love.