Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Southeast Ohio, Tenderfoot Learning Lab’s mission is to foster self-reliance, sustainable habits and ways of thinking, and to make higher education more accessible. We offer programs for people of all ages on how to live and work with sustainability in mind. To us, sustainable living means making intentional daily decisions with consideration for their social, economic, and environmental impact.
Because eating food is a universal experience, we’ve put food at the heart of our programs. It’s a great starting point for thinking about sustainable living. Here at Tenderfoot, we grow food, we cook it from scratch, we teach classes about it, we try new recipes in our #tenderfoottestkitchen, and we share our creations while gathered around our beautiful, handmade dining table built from local hardwoods. We use organic growing methods – no chemical fertilizers or pesticides – and we raise free-range chickens who supply us with eggs of varied colors and sizes. In the kitchen, we use hand tools to demonstrate how much energy goes into simple actions we often take for granted. We don’t own a microwave, but people seem to love our stove-top popcorn!
For ingredients that we don’t produce on-site, we rely on our area’s extensive network of sustainable farms. Southeast Ohio produces an impressive bounty of organic, conscientiously-produced food. We can get nearly everything locally – vegetables, fruit, honey, maple syrup, mushrooms, grains, beans, dairy, meat, even our popcorn! The Athens Farmers Market is a treasure trove that allows us to cook and eat within our values.
We’re developing our 16-acre property to host participants for immersive experiences in sustainable living. Beginning in 2022, we will offer week-long programs, 3-week and 6-week programs, and full-semester programs (15 weeks). Residential participants get to experience a lifestyle that is likely very different from their own, learn useful life skills, and earn affordable college credit*. With the guidance and expertise of our live-in staff, participants manage a garden, cook for each other, and work on infrastructure to produce energy. Students also take classes that explore how sustainability is relevant to their own academic majors, professions, and communities. To answer a common question, a day-in-the-life goes something like this:
9 am – 12 pm
12 pm – 2 pm
2 pm – 5 pm
5 pm – 7 pm
7 pm –
Work Teams: Garden, Kitchen, and Maintenance
Lunch & Break
Class Time (experiential and in-class activities)
Dinner & Break
Recreation, Reflection, & Relaxation
If you represent an institution interested in providing this experience to your students, please visit our Partners page for more information!
Our short-term programs include half-day, single-day, and weekend programs. These serve as fundraisers so we can offer our residential programs at very affordable rates, making them accessible to diverse participants. Past programs have included volunteer days, food preservation classes, Date Night-style cooking classes, group hikes, and campfires. For the latest info on our short-term programming, check out our Events page.
Due to COVID, our programming is largely on pause, but check back in Summer 2021 for updates or follow us on Instagram & Facebook: @tenderfootlearninglab.
*Tenderfoot Learning Lab is not a credit-granting institution. For students seeking college credit, we work with your home institution in advance of your arrival at Tenderfoot to determine how your sustainable semester will be credited.