People living in east Birmingham now have a new place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables: their nearby high school.
The Farm Stand opened Thursday afternoon at Woodlawn High School. Operated by students, the Farm Stand gives neighbors a place to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown at the school in conjunction with the city’s Jones Valley Teaching Farm program. Amanda Storey, executive director of the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, says the Farm Stand was made possible through a grant from Gov. Kay Ivey as part of the Alabama Healthy Food Financing Act.
“It gives our students a chance to connect with our neighbors and also be able to provide a service to their neighborhood,” Storey said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The Farm Stand is in a part of Birmingham the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a “food desert,” which is an area without easy access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Josh Carpenter, director of Economic Development for the city of Birmingham, says the Farm Stand solves that problem and helps students.
“Woodlawn is a great proof-point of what is possible when we really dedicate resources and time to this type of engagement,” Carpenter said. “Some of these students are thinking not just about how to grow vegetables, but then, ‘What does the irrigation system look like?’ and they’re conceptualizing their own careers as plumbers and electricians. That type of development comes foundationally through these types of experiential work-based learning, so they’ve really laid the groundwork for apprenticeships in the city.”
The Jones Valley Teaching Farm operates seven farms throughout Birmingham, engaging more than 4,500 students from pre-K through high school in a hands-on, food-based education model. Storey says the program helps students grow life skills.
“One of the biggest pieces that you learn when running a farm is that seeds take a long time to grow,” Storey said. “We’re all so used to instant gratification, the process of growing food is something that really instills leadership and patience and all of these life skills that are so important for young people. Being able to be front and center in leading a project, when you’re in high school, I think is so important for student growth and for life growth.”
The Farm Stand is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:00-5:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Jones Valley Teaching Farm online at jvtf.org.