BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (July 27, 2016) – Fresh, locally-grown food is coming to southwestern Jefferson County thanks to a $50,000 grant secured by the Jefferson County Conservation District. The District competed against dozens of other applicants across the country for the National Association of Conservation Districts-funded grant and is the only conservation district in Alabama to become a recipient.
“We are honored to have been selected for this grant. Fresh food, especially in parts of the Birmingham-metro area, is hard to come by for some. These food deserts contribute to hunger, poor learning in school, unemployment, and health issues, so we’re excited about how this funding will impact the community,” said John W. Morris, Chairman, Jefferson County Conservation District.
The Urban Conservation Grant will focus on strengthening urban agriculture by funding a full-time project coordinator who will conduct educational workshops and spearhead the effort to construct a hoop house in the Hillman Neighborhood for residents to learn how to grow their own vegetables.
Virginia Ward of Bessemer has 25 years of experience in agriculture and community organizing and will serve as the project coordinator.
“I am delighted to have this opportunity to help revitalize this neighborhood,” said Ward.
“Our vision is to increase access to food and to be a catalyst for inter-community cooperation. In this part of the metro area, we have people of great vision with the passion to improve their neighborhoods, and address the nutritional and vocational needs of their communities,” said Katie Heath, Jefferson County District Administrative Coordinator.
The District is working in close partnership with the Hillman Neighborhood Association, Southwest Birmingham Urban Farm, Project Hopewell, Inc., and Hopewell Women in Agriculture (HWIA) to implement the grant.
“It will be an honor to help empower residents with the knowledge and skills to promote sustainability,” said Olivia Johnson, President of HWIA.
The hoop house will be operational in time for a late summer planting and an early winter harvest of various greens. Culinary students at Lawson State Community College and Wenonah High School will also assist by teaching food preparation and herb production.
Nationwide, NACD distributed $2 million in urban agriculture grants.