Farm-City group tours Birmingham

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CULLMAN – What do you get when you load up a bus with approximately 50 gardeners, farmers and others who enjoy growing things and learning more about where our food comes from? You get a rolling good time, that’s what!

That’s just what happened this week when a group of Cullman Farm-City, Cullman County Extension agents and others boarded a bus, Birmingham-bound, for the annual Farm-City Tour, which included Jones Valley Urban Farm, Golden Flake and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

The Jones Valley Urban Farm, which is located directly underneath Highway 280 in Birmingham, provides, among other things, educational opportunities for students from kindergarten and middle schools in the Birmingham area.

Fresh vegetables are offered on-site five days per week, featuring affordable produce. The farm also hosts a community garden with 38 plots. The rental of plots starts at $10 and, depending on size, progresses up to $75 per plot, depending on the participant’s ability to pay.

Everything, including seeds, water, plants and other items needed to produce food is supplied by the farm. It is up to the farmer to maintain and care for the plot, and when the time comes, to harvest their plot.

According to Farm-City committee member, Doris Patterson, the variety and abundance of the produce at the farm is phenomenal.

"The Jones Valley teaching gardens offer many opportunities for the Birmingham area, especially the community gardens and the produce stand which is an honor system sale," said Cullman County Extension Agent Assistant, Raydonna Sims. "The produce stand has a cooler with all produce in it, a scale for the customer to weigh their purchase and a box for them to leave their money.  They have had no problems with dishonesty."

After lunch at Nikki’s West, the group toured Golden Flake.

At the Golden Flake factory the group learned that, “It takes four pounds of potatoes to make one bag of potato chips, and that a large tanker truck delivers the oil needed each day to fry those chips,” said Patterson. “Trailer trucks deliver thousands of pounds of potatoes from over the country each day.”

Sims also enjoyed touring the Golden Flake factory, "It was really an eye opener," she exclaimed. "6,400 pounds of potatoes go through the plant every two hours.  The automation was amazing.  They change out their vegetable oil every two batches, totaling 1,200 gallons per day!"

These are just a few of the fun facts that the group learned at Golden Flake in Birmingham.

Afterward, it was on to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which welcomes approximately 350,000 visitors each year. Admission to the park is free.

Tetrina and Leonard Slade were fascinated by some of the unusual plants, and unique displays at the gardens. “The guide explained to us that the banana tree is cut back each year but returns, and does not have to be dug up as we had heard,” Tetrina Slade remarked. “There was another plant that caught my eye, planted in a birdbath. It has beautiful thick leaves, edged in red, and is called a Pancake plant, which is a type of succulent.” 

This year’s theme for Cullman Farm-City is Agriculture: Food for Life.  The group saw many varieties of plants and herbs grown at the gardens and displayed in beautiful, carefully laid out beds. “Many experimental methods are used at the garden and all the produce is donated to local food pantries,” explained Patterson.

“The Farm-City tour provided opportunities to go and visit new places, meet new people, and learn new techniques for growing food,” Patterson continued.

A good time was had by all, and the group came home with lots of innovative ideas for growing, distributing and cooking food.

The Farm-City Tour was one of many events leading up to this year’s Farm-City Week, Nov. 17-23, 2017. Farm-City Week is celebrated each year beginning on the Friday prior to and ending on Thanksgiving Day.  The stated purpose of Farm-City Week is “to bring about a better understanding between rural and urban people by increasing their knowledge and appreciation of each other as partners in progress.”

The annual Sweet Potato Cookoff will be held at the North Alabama Agriplex on Tuesday, Nov. 14

Tickets are on sale now for the Farm-City Farm-to-Fork Dinner, to be held Nov. 16 at the Cullman Civic Center. The Triumphant Quartet will provide the entertainment. All former Farm and City Families of the Year will be honored at the event.

Tickets are available from Farm-City committee members and at all branches of Merchants Bank, Cullman Savings Bank and People's Bank. Now through Nov. 10 tickets are available for $15. After the 10th, tickets will be $20 until Nov. 15, the last day to purchase.

Learn more at www.cullmanfarmcity.org.

Copyright 2017 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Lead photo courtesy of Luanne Reid.