The Vance Community Garden is a joint effort between the Bristol, Tennessee YMCA’s “Healthy Kids” program and Vance Middle School (Bristol Tennessee City School system) to enhance the nutrition of students, using the garden as a tool. Through it, we plan to encourage students to try new foods, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and to choose fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria instead of processed foods. The garden will also give us the ability to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to lower income students to help and encourage their families to eat more healthily, to teach healthy food choices, and to encourage self-sufficiency.


Through our work with students, we are introducing the concept of manual labor. To some, this is a new concept, but it is part of a healthy life style. We are also teaching students to propagate garden-variety seedlings for fun and profit. Although not all of them lived, several varieties of heirloom apple and pear trees were planted by students, and hopefully, the living trees will produce good fruit in years to come.


The Vance Community Garden project is serving the Bristol community by continuing the on-going restoration and beautification of the grounds at Vance Middle School. Some of our long-term goals include achieving sustainability, promoting an attitude of self-sufficiency, utilizing the Bristol Farmer’s Market as a venue for marketing “Vance Grown” produce, and involving Bristol’s elementary schools and high school to create a holistic educational resource. Further, in the future, individuals or families will be able to lease plots for a nominal annual fee, thereby providing local people in suburban areas the means by which to grow their own gardens.


Participants in this project are continuing research of other successful community gardens and their impact on the surrounding area. We are instilling in students the idea that hard work, patience, and dedication, put forth to these gardening tasks, can easily be transferred into any future endeavors, whether it be the classroom, or life!

Seedlings growing in greenhouse, planted by Vance Middle School students.
Student’s raised bed garden, with giant sunflower and roma tomatoes.
Watermelon developing in a student’s raised bed!
Five of thirty-six raised beds on the Vance side of the garden. Beans in the foreground, watermelon on the left, and tomatoes in the back.
Zucchini and tomatoes, raised by Vance Middle School employee, who bought seedlings from the Garden Group, back in May!