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Tennessee Tour Showcases Local Food Productionís Role in Economic and Community Development Efforts

November 2013


 
Photo of ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl visiting Hixson High School as part of ARC's Tennessee Jobs and Local Food Systems Tour.
ARC's November 2013 Jobs and Local Food Systems Tour in Appalachian Tennessee included a visit to Hixson High School for an overview of its Aglab Project, a student-managed greenhouse and laboratory that will allow students to get hands-on learning opportunities in science, technology, entrepreneurship, and agricultural management.(Photo by Guy Land/ARC)

ARC officials continued the Commission's Jobs and Local Food Systems Tour with a visit to Appalachian Tennessee November 20–21, 2013, where they visited programs highlighting local food production as an important component of community economic revitalization, entrepreneurship development, and education and training efforts. Tennessee is one of 11 states officials have visited thus far as part of the Region-wide tour launched in March 2013, examining the potential of local food systems to create economic opportunity and grow jobs in Appalachia.

On November 20 ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl and local development officials visited the city-managed Kingsport Farmers Market, which serves as a central location for community activities as part of a local economic redevelopment strategy. The city has a contract with the nonprofit Tri-Cities Farmers' Association for Retail Marketing to operate the farmers market, and a partnership with a local Food City grocery store has helped strengthen the market's sales.

At Greenville's Rural Resources, located in a heavily agricultural region, tour participants learned about a variety of programs connecting local farms and food producers with consumers and the community, including a mobile farmers market that accepts online orders for and delivers all-local produce to Greeneville-area residents. Through Rural Resources' Farm and Food Teen Training Program, food-insecure youths are taught how to grow food on the farm and then work with local chefs to learn cooking and catering, after which they create and run a farm- or food-related business for two years. Additionally, a garden at Rural Resources serves as both production and education space, with the resulting produce used in a community-supported agriculture program, local food events, and a local food bank.

Photo of ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl and local development officials visit the McMinn Living Well initiativeís community garden in Athens, Tennessee.
ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl (left) and local development officials visited the McMinn Living Well initiative's community garden in Athens, created to help address a local food desert in the area. (Photo by Guy Land/ARC)

The tour also included a visit to Hixson High School and an overview of its ARC-supported Aglab Project, a student-managed greenhouse and laboratory that will allow students to get hands-on learning opportunities in science, technology, entrepreneurship, and agricultural management. The students will learn to use emerging agricultural technologies to address issues such as food security and sustainability and will also explore topics including environmental stewardship and healthy food.

Other programs highlighted during the tour were the McMinn Living Well initiative's community garden, created to help address a local "food desert" in the Athens area; and Crabtree Farms, which works to connect Chattanoogans with the local foodshed through sustainable agriculture education and advocacy programs and a farm-to-school program for schoolchildren.

ARC launched the Appalachian Jobs and Local Food Systems Tour in Asheville, North Carolina, on March 20 at a conference of the Appalachia Funders Network, an informal association of national, regional, and local foundations that has identified local food systems as a priority for funding. The tour has since then included visits to Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Alabama, and Georgia, and Mississippi, in addition to Tennessee. Future visits will focus on Virginia and Kentucky.