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(Locator: Hancock Country, TN)
In Hancock County - as poor as it is picturesque - it takes real commitment to say this:
Steve Hodges, United Methodist Missionary: “Rather than just creating jobs, it’s important to me to empower people as much as possible.”
Steve Hodges began the Jubilee Project Community Kitchen, a development model helping local farmers create new products and market them from salsa to sweet potato butter. Hodges is a United Methodist missionary.
Steve Hodges/United Methodist Missionary: “There are a lot of forms of mission work all of which is needed - educational, health care, evangelistic - ours just happens to be economic development.”
“This fellow with the ledger, he’s my great grandfather.”
Bill Davidson’s family has worked this land since the 19th century.
Bill Davidson/Family Farmer: “I hope I’m not the one that can’t keep it running.”
The Davidsons sell their strawberries and other crops out of the family store but the business of farming has become increasingly difficult.
Steve Hodges: “They know how to work hard. They often are ingenious about solving problems. What they often don’t have is the knowledge of starting a business and how to keep it going in the 21st century.”
Bill Davidson: “We’re trying to add value to make money to stay on the farm.”
“This is Bill Davidson’s strawberry cider. We have a new product for him to use his strawberries in.”
Steve Hodges: “If you have someone employing you they can always take that job away. If you start a small business, you own the company.”
Bill Davidson: “It could be huge.”
Now his business plan goes beyond just “hoping” the family farm will survive through the fruits of their own labor.
Bill Davidson: “It just needs to have growth, you know how any business is, it always needs growth.”
With the revenue it generates, and grant money, the kitchen now works with 30 small businesses. The kitchen is capable of producing 2000 jars of farm-fresh, gourmet products a day. Some of the other products created there are lip balm, and herbal self-care products.
To find out more about the program, go to: http://jubileeproject.holston.org/kitchen.htm or call 423-733-4195.