In 2007, Jones Valley Teaching Farm found its home on a 3-acre city block in the Central City neighborhood of downtown Birmingham. Jones Valley Teaching Farm established a new community garden and a farm center, broke ground on our first fields, and began to scale up our food- and farm-centered programming.
In 2016, with an established history of field trip programming and collaboration, Jones Valley Teaching Farm pursued John Herbert Phillips Academy as our newest partner school. We hired an instructor fully dedicated to designing and delivering programs to the school’s 900-plus pre-K–8th grade students, using the Downtown Farm Campus as a Teaching Farm and learning laboratory.
The southwest corner of the downtown farm campus hosts our community garden, which houses 38 raised bed plots, a tool shed, and a sheltered porch. Community gardeners lease their plots each year on a sliding scale, and Jones Valley Teaching Farm provides the seeds, seedlings, compost, tools, and garden supplies. For information about our community garden, contact email@example.com.
Established: Spring 2013
Located in the Southside area of Birmingham, the Glen Iris Elementary School Teaching Farm was the first site constructed by Jones Valley Teaching Farm on a Birmingham City Schools campus. Principal Dr. Michael Wilson invited Jones Valley Teaching Farm to imagine bringing our Downtown Farm Campus experience to the playground and courtyard of his school. Today the playground is lined by raised beds brimming with produce. Muscadine arbors shade the sidewalks of the courtyard, blackberries climb the gym walls, and a teaching pavilion appears to float in the middle of a pond inhabited by fish and curious turtles.
This year, the site was enriched by the construction of a sheltered outdoor kitchen, with student seating and space to wash harvested vegetables and prepare snacks with student-grown produce.
Glen Iris Elementary serves more than 800 pre-K–5th grade students each year.
Established: Spring 2014
Located in the Oak Ridge Park neighborhood, the Teaching Farm at Henry J. Oliver Elementary is situated in the rear of the school in view of playgrounds and a well-loved basketball court. A raised mound is inset with an amphitheater that features tiers of student seating. Three storage structures house education, culinary, and farm supplies and are adjacent to a harvest washing station, constructed as an Eagle Scout service project. Fruit trees, both familiar and exotic, span from the school’s back door across the driveway, surrounding instruction and play spaces. The planting field has 30 beds for annual vegetable production, four steel-constructed raised beds that are home to sensory gardens, and many additional planting spaces where perennial herbs and flowers bring year-round interest. A shallow pond featuring a bridge, aquatic vegetation, and a small population of fish attracts students and the occasional great blue heron.
Henry J. Oliver Elementary serves more than 500 pre-K–5th grade students each year, and is a part of the Woodlawn High School pipeline.
Established: Fall 2014
Located high on a hilltop in the Forest Park neighborhood, the Teaching Farm at Avondale Elementary offers a wide view of the Birmingham skyline. Open to the field and playground on the school’s west side, a pollinator garden and long muscadine arbor leads students into the site, which features uniquely designed H-shaped raised beds that facilitate lesson delivery by allowing more students to get a closer view. A sheltered teaching space was added in 2015 through a Girl Scout Gold Award project. Two roll-top doors reveal education, culinary, and farm supplies in easy reach for Instructors and students. The Teaching Farm structure is bordered by a shaded pond and a “peace garden,” and the fence along back edge of the site is a mural of colorful food and farm-themed panels painted by students.
Avondale Elementary serves more than 500 pre-K–5th grade students each year, and is a part of the Woodlawn High School pipeline.
Established: Spring 2015
Located in the Eastwood neighborhood of Birmingham, the Teaching Farm at W.E. Putnam Middle School is an unexpected oasis tucked behind the school. As visitors approach the site, fish dart below aquatic plants in a clear pond as birds forage for seed on a sloped living, green roof that covers the outdoor classroom. The classroom contains tiers of wooden seating and a long work table that regularly accommodates culinary, science, and art experiments. Twenty-five raised vegetable beds fan out around a tennis court. Beyond the vegetables, flowering vines, towering sunflowers, and sprawling strawberries, evidence of project-based learning is everywhere from vermicomposting stations to an impressive student-designed greenhouse.
W.E. Putnam Middle School serves more than 250 6th–8th grade students each year, and is a part of the Woodlawn High School pipeline.
Established: Summer 2015
Located in the North Avondale neighborhood, Hayes School is a new campus built on the site of the former Hayes High School, and now serves pre-K–8th grade students. The large half-acre Teaching Farm is located between the school and the sports field. During the school day, students filter through the site on their way to and from recess. In the afternoon, a carpool line encircles the Teaching Farm, offering an easy view of the produce that will be used for programming. This site has a deep pond with catfish and flowering lotus, more than 35 raised vegetable beds, and a large assortment of fruit plantings, including mature fig trees and a 100-foot-long blackberry trellis. There are shade arbors at each end of the site and a central pavilion that opens to reveal culinary, education, and farm supplies.
Hayes K-8 serves more than 1,100 pre-K–8th grade students each year, and is a part of the Woodlawn High School pipeline.
Established: Spring 2016
Woodlawn High School Teaching Farm is a 2-acre site located on the northwest corner of the school’s campus. The centerpiece of the site is a 1,500-square-foot state-of-the-art greenhouse, which provides our staff the space needed to produce more than 35,000 seedlings each year for all of our partner school sites. The ability to grow seedlings in a controlled environment means that we are able to extend our school year growing season—helping us to get a jump on early spring crops for culinary lessons and ensuring we have a robust fall season with vegetables ready to supply our markets and programming.
This site is similar in scale and production potential to our Downtown Farm Campus and is run with the support of our Woodlawn High School paid internship program. Each afternoon, students in the internship program head to the farm and prepare to care for crops and tend to the space. You can learn more about the program here. A grant from the Nature Conservancy and a partnership with Petals from the Past in Jemison allowed students an opportunity to study, plan, and execute the installation of an orchard that includes pear, apple, peach, Asian persimmon, and fig trees. The site features produce processing and storage facilities, office space, restrooms, a tool and equipment barn, and an airy teaching pavilion that floats above a large pond and bioswale.