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Jefferson County Conservation District, Alabama

The Jefferson County CD’s “Revitalizing Hillman” project was designed to enable residents in southwestern Birmingham, Ala., to improve their lives through increased access to fresh foods and expanded economic opportunities for their youth. Through the work of a local project coordinator hired with grant funds, the following accomplishments were realized:

Partners, local representatives, and residents came together for a group shot at the Revitalizing Hillman Celebration in September 2016.

  • A seasonal high tunnel used for food production and outreach has been erected in the community. It has produced collard, turnip and mustard greens, Yukon potatoes, onions, okra, yellow squash, zucchini, kale, cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers, rutabagas, pink-eye peas and green beans. The produce has been sold to a local restaurant, provided to a non-profit for use in their senior program, and sold at two nearby farmers markets.
  • Local youth have been taught how to plant and harvest produce in the high tunnel.
  • The high tunnel has become a model and learning lab for other urban food producers.
  • Workshops on food production, food preparation, container gardening, community pride and health have been presented at venues in the community.
  • Connections have been established between residents and the culinary departments at a nearby community college and a local high school.

Additionally, there are plans for this neighborhood that have yet to be realized. The project coordinator envisions the development of a summer jobs program with the high tunnel at its center, similar to programs currently operating in Boston and Detroit. She is also promoting the development of a high tunnel installation business that will be composed of young people from the community. And finally, she continues to be an example to all those she encounters as she strives to continue her education and pass it along to a younger audience who is willing to learn. Thanks to the district’s guidance and coordinator’s persistence, the Hillman High Tunnel has become a staple of the community.

These are some of the students who volunteered their time to work in the hoop house with the project coordinator.

Sustainability

The following steps should ensure continued impact of this project in the Hillman Neighborhood:

  1. Throughout the year, the project coordinator has worked to connect key personnel already in or near this community.
  2. The District has worked with the coordinator to keep the media and politicians aware of developments in the neighborhood.
  3. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives partnered with NRCS on an Urban High Tunnel initiative that will result in several more hoop houses being installed throughout the metropolitan area. The individuals installing these systems have all visited the Revitalizing Hillman High Tunnel and are acquainted with the project coordinator.
  4. The hoop house will be administered going forward by the Southwest Birmingham Community Farm. This will ensure its continued production of fresh produce for local sale and distribution.
  5. The Farm has acquired the rights to use two adjoining lots and a local landscape architect donated his skills to design a permaculture plan for those lots.
  6. When the permaculture design is fully implemented, these three urban lots will be able to provide not only vegetables, but fruits, flowers, and herbs for use and sale in the community.

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