, ,

In the heart of Birmingham, on a city block that was once the address of a notorious housing project, is a three-acre oasis of organic goodness. We took a road trip yesterday to visit Jones Valley Urban Farm, now ten years into their mission of reconnecting people to fresh food. Our first stop was Pepper Place Saturday Market, where shoppers crowded around the Jones Valley booth to buy just-picked veggies and herbs.

In addition to the weekly market, the farm sells tasty organic produce to grocery stores and restaurants in the region, runs a farm stand and provides food to customers through their Food Box subscription program. They also offer 30 raised bed community plots for local families who just want to do a little gardening on their own:

At the farm property, rainwater is captured by a “butterfly roof” sheltering the Jones Valley farm stand. The fresh water is channeled into an enormous rain barrel:

A self-service farm stand provides seven-days-a-week access to fresh produce and other farm products:

Easily visible from the nearby interstate highway and from an adjoining forest of high-rise apartments, Jones Valley is designed to serve as a model sustainable urban farm. The farmers enthusiastically welcome visitors of all ages. They host weekly workshops, school programs and youth internships that focus on sustainable agriculture and nutrition.

Lush squash and sprawling cucumber vines appear to spring effortlessly from the rich soil, but I know better than that… Crops here are meticulously planned to allow regular rotation and to maintain a healthy, organic soil bed. Arugula is a year-round crop in central Alabama, and the farm has a perpetual harvest from three raised beds: we saw one recently planted, one almost ready for harvest and one that is being picked and sold now:

Flowers are an important crop at Jones Valley, too: