July 2, 2018|By Emma Parrish and Salem Carriker
Zhivko Illeieff: Thank you for sharing this project with the Fund’s audience! What is Try This NC? How did the project start and why did you feel it was an important opportunity?

Emma Parrish: Try This NC is a website that showcases dozens of healthy living programs, initiatives, and ideas from across rural North Carolina communities that have all been tried out, tested and proven to be successful. Try This NC was inspired by the Try This West Virginia website, which similarly uplifts diverse projects in rural West Virginia that promote community health.

I think rural communities are often forgotten about and we don’t hear a lot about the positive things going on in them. Try This NC gives a lot of recognition to the years of time and energy that people have poured into these programs. I really like that Try This NC is a place to showcase and celebrate their success.

Salem Carriker
: Rural communities can often be pretty disconnected due to distance and geography. Also, community health programs are often focused on urban areas, and those methods and results can be hard to translate into rural communities. The idea behind Try This NC is to showcase rural ideas that really work, and to connect people by including contact information for participants so that if someone who wants to take on similar program they can reach out to the successful organization to find out more.

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Zhivko: What drove you to pursue this type of work—improving healthy lifestyles in rural communities?

Salem: I first got interested in community health during high school when I started volunteering at a free clinic. It was there that I realized how many factors actually determine a person’s health, including where you live and how much money you make. I hated that not everyone gets the same access to help and health, and that led me into this work.
I’ve also seen firsthand that in many rural communities people are passionate about where they live, they want to help each other, and they are able to get a lot done with very few resources. They often have a deep connection to their community and know their community best, and that is inspiring to me.

Emma: Also, compared to other states nationwide, North Carolina ranks 11th highest for hypertension and 16th in obesity rates. So, there is definitely a strong need for managing and prevent chronic disease in our home state.

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Salem (left; photo by Celeste Carpenter) and Emma (right; photo by Salem Carriker) volunteering at the Garden of Concord, which is featured on Try This NC for its success in increasing food access.

Zhivko: How does Try This NC relate to the work being done by The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities Program (RCP)?

Emma: RCP has been working with people in rural areas for so long, and they recognize what people want to do for their community and what they need to make that happen. I really love that we get to uplift the amazing work that our partners are doing, and really showcase that and give a presence them online through Try This NC.

Salem: I think it captures RCP’s mission of thinking broadly about how your work impacts the greater community, the economy and the environment. RCP is also really good about developing partnerships and networks. Try This NC is a next step in that ability to form partnerships and connect people.

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A Time for Science (left) and The Coharie (right) are both featured on Try This NC. Photos by Olivia Jackson.

Zhivko: There are five key areas on the Try This NC website—Healthy Eating, Active Living, Manage and Prevent Disease, Focus on Community, and Increase Food Access. How do you select the organizations, programs, and case studies to feature under these major themes?

Emma: We wanted to find and uplift rural communities that faced problems with chronic disease, food access, and social equity in their community and were taking the solution into their own hands.

We were also really intentional about making sure that we didn’t repeat ourselves. For example, there are not eight different community gardens highlighted, and for the few community garden examples we did include we tried to pick out something different that each one did really well or a project that was unique to them.

Here are two examples of how the Try This NC website is being used as a tool for connecting people with healthy opportunities. The Garden of Concord is a community garden that has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program using produce grown from the garden that 25 families pay to receive. In addition to selling CSA's, the Garden of Concord gives away 10 CAS boxes to families in need of fresh food. 

In Burnsville, North Carolina the community garden Dig In! hosts a weekly program called the Harvest Table, where they bring food grown from the garden and welcome people to come try new, seasonal produce as well as invite people to bring any extra food they personally have grown to give to others. The Harvest Table is set up at a convenient location—like at the health department—and includes cooking demonstrations, recipe cards, and fresh food for people to buy. 

Both of these community gardens are giving out produce to the people in their community that need it the most in different, creative ways. We feature the part of a program that makes it stand out from others.
Salem: We started by looking at our current RCP partners and reaching out to other groups working in rural areas across North Carolina. And we always kept our eyes and ears open for good leads.

We made the decision to only include rural examples on the website because we want people to relate to what they’re reading, instead of viewing a project in a big city as something that could never happen where they live.

We also only feature projects that have already been tested and proven to be successful. So, even though sometimes we'll talk to somebody who's starting up a really great project, we don’t put them on the website until they have results that show it was successful in their community.

Zhivko: How can online platforms like Try This NC affect the real world?

Emma: In rural communities, people are very spread out from each other, and an online resource is really great at lessening that distance. Access to transportation is always one of the biggest issues we come across in rural communities, and I think this is a really great solution to get people connected to each other. Try This NC is a great way to get people from the coast to see what's going on in the mountains without even needing to leave their house.

Also, we didn’t just stop after we made the website. We’re going out and telling people about it. We’re teaching people how to use it.

Zhivko: What would you like to share about this experience with others who are working to improve rural communities in North Carolina and around the United States?

Emma: I was really blown away by working with Resourceful Communities. This has been the best experience I could have ever dreamed off. I never knew a place like this existed that ties into my beliefs, my values, and my background in preventive health care. Probably the biggest thing that I learned here is that nothing gets done without partnership. You don’t have to do things alone.

: I would remind people that even if you cannot see the impact you are making right away, just the fact that you care and that you're trying to improve your community is doing a lot. So don’t give up and keep going. I definitely learned lot about developing effective community health programs through this experience, and I have a new goal for myself: to start a program that will be successful enough to be featured on Try This NC!