Newark, Del. – Last October, at Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Fresh Summit, Joe Don Zetzsche, director of BLOOMS® Flowers by H-E-B, introduced the PMA Impact Award during his comments as the incoming chair of the Board of Directors. On stage, he explained the award’s purpose is “to honor excellence and inspirational actions of people and organizations helping to grow a healthier world.” This week, PMA has announced the first three PMA Impact Award laureates to be recognized for their transformative work. Each of the winners are featured in a mini-documentary that will be shared on PMA’s recently launched Impact Award webpage. The first winner named is Jones Valley Teaching Farm in Birmingham, Alabama.
“We know that one of the most powerful things a person can do to live a healthier life is to eat more fruits and vegetables, and establishing habits at a young age is key to lifetime produce consumption,” said PMA Chief Strategy and Membership Officer, Lauren M. Scott. “Jones Valley Teaching Farm has created a community movement that helps children access and learn about farming through a meaningful a hands on experience that is shaping their relationship with food, providing a deep learning experience, and shaping their communities in a very important way. We are thrilled to recognize them with one of the first PMA Impact Awards.”
The Jones Valley Teaching Farm uses food and growing food as a platform for learning. Since establishing their first farm in 2007, Jones Valley Teaching Farm has grown over time to incorporate more farms, more school partners, and ultimately a broader impact. The organization boasts 7 teaching farms, 6 of which are located on site at local schools in partnership with the Birmingham Public School System. Five of these farms are currently in the Woodlawn neighborhood, meaning students can engage with the Teaching Farm’s education model for every year of their education from pre-school to high school. Each of these farms, or learning laboratories, is also staffed with full-time instructors who work with the teachers within the schools to create customized curriculum to apply in-classroom learnings in a hands-on farm experience.
The program reaches over 3500 kids each year, who then go on to bring those learnings to their own communities. At this point, 25% of the organization’s staff is made up of graduates, a number that Executive Director, Amanda Storey, hopes to grow over time.
“That is intentional and is shifting the paradigm of non-profit and that’s important,” said Storey. “When it’s students who have been through the program and can then be able to direct it, that is community change. That is opportunity.”
The program has provided measurable change for the Birmingham community, with over 18,500 pounds of food harvested. The students select the produce to plant based on taste, curiosity and consumer demand, as they even have a free after-school program called the Market Club where teams of students at each of the elementary school sites sell produce to teachers, parents, and community members. They apply math and communication skills as they get first-hand experience in marketing produce.
Perhaps the most powerful measure of all is how the students have demonstrated their commitment to learning and growing produce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have seen kids dig up their backyard from March until June and plant food in their backyards because they couldn’t get to our farms,” said Storey. “That is a whole different level of impact on a community, on a neighborhood, on a family. Those are the skills that come with growing this food. Those are long-term solutions.”
PMA has launched a website to recognize the Impact Award winners and share their stories globally. Those interested in learning more, nominating someone for the Impact Award or to view the mini-documentary about Jones Valley Teaching Farm can find more information here.
About Produce Marketing Association
Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption. For more information, visit www.pma.com.