Knowledge for life. A look inside Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Camp Grow

Birmingham, Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Photo via Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Facebook page

With virtual summer camps being the new trend in 2020, Jones Valley Teaching Farm hopped on the vegetable wagon to host their own version with Camp Grow. Discover what the program is all about and how it’s teaching important, life-long skills to kids in Birmingham.

But first, what is Jones Valley Teaching Farm?

Birmingham, Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Cucumbers ready! Photo via Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Facebook page

Jones Valley Teaching Farm is a Birmingham-based nonprofit organization that was founded in 2007. Its mission—to build vibrant, student-centered Teaching Farms that provide an environment for young students where they can learn, create, explore and grow a healthy future for themselves and their community. 

Using the Good School Food model as a guide, full-time instructors are able to collaborate with teachers to help kids in grades pre-k through 12th connect food, farming and culinary arts through standard-based, cross-curricular lessons during school days. It’s like the cooler, more modern sister of home ec.

Along with their teaching farm located in downtown Birmingham, JVTF oversees six teaching farms on campuses of elementary, middle and high school schools throughout Birmingham. They include:

  • John Herbert Phillips Academy
  • Glen Iris Elementary School
  • Henry J. Oliver Elementary School
  • Avondale Elementary School
  • W.E. Putnam Middle School
  • C.W. Hayes K-8 School
  • Woodlawn High School

Behind the Scenes of Camp Grow

Birmingham, Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Students of Camp Grow learn all about growing, harvesting and cooking vegetables. Photo via Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Facebook page

Camp Grow took place June 22-July 17 and was free to rising 6-9th grade students in Woodlawn and Bush Hills communities. During the camp, students discovered the art of planting, harvesting and cooking. This year’s camp theme—”All things food—growing it, cooking it and sharing it with others.” A nice concept, don’t you think?

In order to host the camp, the JVTF sought help from the Woodlawn Foundation who built a mobile app that allowed students to access the camp from tech devices at home. They also provided hotspots and unlimited data to each family which was integral to Camp Grow’s success.

Two times a week during the four-week camp, students hopped online to participate. Activities included virtual farming and culinary lessons with live demonstrations from local chefs and restaurant owners. 

Instructors of Camp Grow also guided small group discussions regarding the week’s topic and the role food plays in the local community. 

Birmingham-based company Shipt played an important role in Camp Grow by providing the culinary supplies needed each week for cooking lessons.

Birmingham, Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Turnip time. Photo via Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Facebook page

What’s especially cool is that each Friday, the week’s guest chef would make a meal and deliver it to each participant and their family. It can’t get much richer than that. 

These are just some of the local chefs and restaurant owners who participated in Camp Grow:

  • Jorge Castro – Sol y Luna
  • Hero Doughnuts
  • Little Donkey
  • Rodney Scott – Rodney Scott’s BBQ
  • Frank + Pardis Stitt

Learn more about Camp Grow.

What did participants think about Camp Grow? 

Birmingham, Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Future chef? I think so. Photo via Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Facebook page

We got some feedback, and guess what, it was all positive. Well done JVTF!

Here are some of the things campers said they enjoyed most:

  • Chatting with different chefs.
  • Planting vegetables and watching them grow.
  • Cooking a meal and having it taste good. 

One participants family was especially grateful for the program, stating:

“Two members of our household had to go into quarantine and my son prepared all the meals. His new skill’s helped us through a hard time. I love that cooking is now a hobby and he values the process of preparing a meal.”

What do you think of Jones Valley Teach Farm and their drive to help students in the Greater Birmingham area? Let us know on social Let us know on social @BhamNow on Facebook and Instagram, or @Now_Bham on Twitter.