If you’ve never been to Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF), you’re missing out. What started as an experiment on an abandoned lot back in 2001 has now grown to include seven teaching farms located on elementary, middle and high school campuses across the city, an inspiring Center for Food Education and more. Keep reading to learn all about it and how you can get involved, including local farm stands offering free produce.
Discover Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Jones Valley Teaching Farm describes its mission in a few powerful words:
“Food is our foundation; people grow here.
Jones Valley Teaching Farm uses food as a foundation so that young people can lead, create and grow a healthy future for themselves and their community.”
To get the scoop, we spoke with Jones Valley Teaching Farm Executive Director Amanda Storey and Board Member Kendra Key about the vision driving the farm’s exponential growth and the many ways it touches the community. Kendra also serves as SVP of the Birmingham Black-Owned Business Initiative at Regions Bank, a longtime supporter of the farm.
1. The Center for Food Education teaches young people to grow, cook + share food.
The Center for Food Education serves as a hub for academic exploration, personal growth and pathways to employment through food, farming and culinary arts.
“At Jones Valley Teaching Farm, we use the Center for Food Education as a space for young people to learn how to grow, cook and share food with their larger community. It’s a place where joy, wonder and awe happen every single day.”Amanda Storey, Executive Director, JVTF
On any given day, you’ll find the following happening:
- Community gardening + culinary programming
- Daily field trips and Good School Food instruction for students across Birmingham + the state
- Employment + training opportunities for graduates of Birmingham City Schools
- Professional development + training for educators
- Quality + free fresh produce
- Week-long camps for K-12 students
2. The Internship + Apprenticeship Programs provide pathways to employment.
Avant Claiborne + Sedrick Burton got involved with the farm as students at Woodlawn High School—now they help run it. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)
Internships for high school students
Juniors and seniors in high school can apply for part-time paid internships like this one:
- Woodlawn High School Internship:
- Who: a select group of Birmingham City Schools rising juniors + seniors
- What: paid internship for course credit where students manage a two-acre urban farm in Woodlawn, learning farm production, from soil preparation to harvest and professional skills
- Apply now
Avant Claiborne started his journey with JVTF as an intern and now serves as a farm specialist for the Woodlawn High School campus. When we asked Avant why he decided to stay on with JVTF full-time after graduation, his response was simple:
“I saw how much they cared about me.”
Apprenticeships for Birmingham City Schools graduates
JVTF is supported by a Board of Directors with deep roots in our city, inluding Kendra Key of Regions Bank. Kendra shared how proud Regions is to partner with JVTF in its apprenticeship program, which provides employment opportunities for Birmingham City Schools graduates.
- JVTF Apprenticeship:
- Who: Birmingham City Schools graduates
- What: 15-month, full-time paid immersive apprenticeship where participants learn about farm management, receive agricultural-focused professional training, workforce development and participate in enrichment experiences
- Apply now
3. The Good Community Food Fellowship Program teaches people how to grow their own food.
Good Community Food is an initiative designed to strengthen the local food system by increasing food access, providing agricultural skills-based training and sharing resources with community gardens.
For a full year, 30+ people come to learn how to make their own food and eventually take those skills back to their communities.
4. Produce stands offer free farm-fresh produce to the community.
With a “take what you need” mindset, the JVTF produce stand downtown is open daily to accommodate the surrounding neighborhood’s needs. In fact, in 2022, they harvested almost 20K pounds of food for the year, supplying a lot of food to give away.
Amanda stopped to admire the recently-grown tomatoes and onions at the produce stand.
“Everything we grow at JVTF we distribute for free. We’re proud to be a food access partner in our city.”Amanda Storey, Executive Director, JVTF
We were happy to sample the delicious tomatoes and beautiful, soil health-restoring flowers from the Woodlawn High School Farm Stand.
For more information and operational hours of the produce stand at each campus, head to JVTF’s website.
5. There are many opportunities to volunteer.
Central to the heart and mission of JVTF is its volunteers. It takes a village, and it helps when that village is passionate about connecting resources with needs.
We recently met up with dozens of associates from Regions Bank who came from all over the Southeast to volunteer at the farm.
Here’s what Kendra Key had to say about the experience:
“More than 160 Regions associates, representing eight lines of business, volunteered with nine nonprofits in Birmingham Thursday, July 27 and Friday, July 28. It’s the largest volunteer effort coordinated by the bank in a 24-hour period.
Like our interns who contributed at Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Woodlawn campus, Regions associates are motivated to not only meet the needs of our customers, but also to help their neighbors in the communities where they live and work.
We’re proud to support the needs of our local communities as part of our mission to make life better. Regions has been a solid supporter of the Jones Valley Teaching Farm and were happy to help them with gardening tasks on the farm.”
Find out how you can get involved with Jones Valley Teaching Farm today.
More than a garden
“A lot of communities are underserviced and don’t have many places where they can get good food, so we make it readily available, and it’s rewarding being a part of that.”Avant Claiborne, Woodlawn High School Farm Specialist, JVTF
One of the many special things about this local farm and education center is they are spread throughout the entire Greater Birmingham Area, meaning numerous communities get equal access to resources that assure nutrition and food education.
Wondering where the closest farm is? Here’s the full list of JVTF campuses:
- Avondale Elementary School
- Downtown Birmingham
- Glen Iris Elementary School
- Hayes K-8 School
- Henry J. Oliver Elementary School
- W.E. Putnam Middle School
- Woodlawn High School
Passionate about food education and eager to share it with others, JVTF is committed to creating pathways in education, farming, health and more.