Local First, Certification Second
Location: Jones Valley Urban Farm, Birmingham, AL
Featuring: Edwin Marty, Founder & Farmer, Jones Valley Urban Farm, Frank Stitt, Founder & Chef, Highlands Bar & Grill
Why does Alabama have fewer certified organic farms than any other place in the country? Three reasons immediately come to mind. First, it’s hard to grow food in Alabama without synthetic chemicals because of the high humidity. Second, insect predation. Third, poor soils. Of course, there are less obvious reasons as well. For one, Black farmers were intentionally excluded from USDA funding for decades, so why would they now ‘trust’ the USDA to make their work more valuable? Also, the good ole’ boy network of farming in Alabama continues to view organics as a “hippy” thing. Finally, County Extension agents only offer research-based advice and the land-grant universities have not been incentivized to do such research.
Edwin came to town with the vision of reconnecting this urban community with sustainably grown food. He reclaimed a small plot of land and started growing herbs, lettuce and vegetables for his community. According to Edwin, “The farm uses food as a tool for social transformation. It reconnects the community to their food and improves health outcomes in an urban environment.”
Frank Stitt, Founder and Chef at Highlands Bar & Grill, comments, “People like me want organically raised food—its better for the land and our environment–but it’s more important to work with and support local farmers. They put us in step with the seasons and create a valuable bond between farmer, chef and community.”