The Barefoot Farmer (Jeff Poppen) has been educating people for many years about growing their own food and the importance of eating locally thru his newspaper column in the Macon County Chronicle, books, TV shows, apprenticeships, lectures, tours and consulting. He applied for and received a FMPP (Farmers Market Promotion Program) 2014 grant for $100,000 thru the USDA, so a Farmer’s Market can be established in Red Boiling Springs and make local fresh produce more available to the public. The grant will also provide money for Poppen to continue his educational training programs, so that other people can learn how to grow their own food and do it themselves and not have to rely on other people.
“We applied for the grant in the beginning of May after a friend called and said there was an announcement from the USDA about grant money to help set up Farmer’s Markets and educational training,” said Poppen. “The deadline was in June and we only had 5 or 6 weeks to get it done. Often times these announcements are money that Congress gives the USDA, because Congress feels like we need more locally grown food because it is good for the economy because people can make money by growing and selling produce. The USDA programs are a little different.”
The Barefoot Farmer says that if people were buying local grown food produce, the money would stay in Macon County. “People used to could live on a farm and making a living, and this is an effort to bring back the economic stability that was here back when we were kids.”
“The other part of the grant is the educational training where we came teach other people how to grow produce themselves,” said Poppen. “Macon County stands at a cross roads right now. There is a huge demand for local food and the possibility of having many economically viable farms is real in Macon County. This also leads to other things like people wanting to tour the farm and look at these gardens which were popularized by my TV show, “The Barefoot Farmer’.”
“This grant will allow us to do more community outreach, more than we are currently able to do,” continued Poppen. “The other possibility is we could become like Clay County and fill the county up with chicken houses. This is the cross roads that we are standing at, whether we are going to become a chicken house county or are we going to become a local garden farming economy. We have the choice right now, we can bring back the family farms that created the culture that makes Macon County such a great place to live.”
The Barefoot Farmer said there was $15 million in grants from the USDA and his farm (Long Hungry Creek Farm) was the only one in the State of Tennessee to receive a grant.
Poppen went on to say that Kristina Cimino, this year’s apprentice at the farm, wrote the grant with help from an intern 15 years ago, Coree Entwistle, and her father, who is a professional grant writer.
“My goals are to develop and expand a community Farmers Market in Red Boiling Springs,” said Poppen, “and have free classes at the Farmers Market, which we be advertised in the local media. There will be lessons for the people working on the farm, where we already have an apprentice program. I will be available for phone and e-mail consultations. There will be tours of the farm and lectures for people wanting to see it hands on.”
Poppen says he is going to organize conferences on his farm and other places and he will also be avilable in Nashville and other areas.
“I want to expand our agriculture library at the farm, particularly text books over 100 years old. We had to validate every dollar we were going to spend and I am asked many questions and sometimes I have to get the books out.”
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the support of the local community,” said Poppen. “Although I look different and despite my eccentricities, the community supported me and I want to thank everybody for the many years of positive feed back for what we do here. There were over 30 letters of support written from area folks telling the government this grant would be put to good use and I truly appreciate their confidence in the Barefoot Farmer.”
“I am looking forward to making the local farming community of Macon Counthy something we can all be proud of,” added Poppen. “Local farming creates jobs, it’s better for our health and it will be better for our environment than large-scale industrial agriculture. We are applying also for an EBT machine which will allow people to use their food stamps at the Farmer’s Market not only for our produce, but for anyone selling their locally grown produce at the community market.”
“I believe humans being are basically good and everything is going to be alright. But it’s important to grow our own food or get it from somebody who’s growing it nearby.”