Community members gather to celebrate the beginning of a season

Hannah Swayze • Apr 8, 2018 at 6:12 PM

Community members gathered on an early spring day to celebrate the beginning of the season at the Mountain Home Food Forest's community celebration pancake brunch.

This community celebration was marked with homemade pancakes and locally procured ingredients included eggs from a neighbor with chicken and syrup for the pancakes made of sap tapped from downtown sugar maple trees.

The Mountain Home Food Forest, a community garden and meeting space at 500 Wilson Ave., was started in 2014 by Taylor Malone, one of the local program managers for Build It Up East Tennessee.

Build it Up East Tennessee is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the community’s health and economy and helping to preserve the region's heritage by promoting local, sustainably grown food. It is housed under the national nonprofit, Grand Aspirations.

"It’s about connecting community and connecting with our food," said Malone.

Those who attended the brunch were treated to pancakes cooked by the children who take part in the Sowing Seeds program, a weekly after-school program Malone and another program manager Shae Keane conduct along with a few students from East Tennessee State University who are pursuing their masters' degrees in nutrition.

The adults teach children between the ages of 5 and 13 who were in the garden on Sunday, cooking the pancakes and serving to their guests.

The gathering is one of four that the program coordinators plan to have during the year to mark the changing of the seasons. This one marked the beginning of preparations for spring crops.

Part of the brunch on Sunday was an Easter egg hunt. But instead of candy, the children discovered seeds inside their eggs to be planted.

Soon, the children involved will be helping plant the seeds in the garden on Wilson as the weather warms.

"The kids are the ones that are planting with us so they're tending the garden they're planting it, harvesting it, weeding it," said Malone.

With a quick look around the garden, one can already see some peas sprouting and various colorful signs marking plants like kiwi, pears and elderberries. Soon, it will be overflowing with edible fruits just waiting to be harvested.

"A lot of these trees were planted in 2014 so they haven't even fruited yet. We're just excited to see what kind of flowers and fruits [that grow] this year because we've got a lot of crazy stuff here," said Malone.