TUSCALOOSA, ALA— You know when you drop your child off at school, they’re probably going to learn to multiply, or where to place commas in a sentence, or even which bully to avoid on the playground.
But what about gardening?
That’s right, gardening.
As in digging your hands in the fresh dark soil and putting that small seed in, and seeing the green sprout after a couple days of sunshine.
That’s what the kids at University Place Elementary school are learning about during their school days.
It’s called the Druid City Garden Project. And it’s here to crusade for the long forgotten days of growing your own food.
The project’s mission is to educate people about making smart, sustainable food choices.
Students ranging from grades kindergarten to fifth come out to their respective locations at University Place and Stillman Heights Elementary schools twice a week, where they gain experience in the garden while also building math, science, and nutrition skills.
Lindsay Turner, executive director of the Druid City Garden Project, said one of the project’s pillars is to “provide accessible food”. Turner said that DCGP subsidizes the produce at an on-site Farm Stand, so when parents come to pick up their children they can roll down their car window and buy what their kids have been growing.
Turner said there is quite a demand for the project.
“Every local school principal has contacted me about doing it. We just need the funding,” Turner said.
The DCGP hosted its own Garden Party Sunday at the L&N Train Station. The fundraiser was followed by the first screening in Tuscaloosa of the film “Eating Alabama,” which depicts the struggle narrator Andy Grace and his wife, Rashmi, faced as they ate strictly locally-grown food for a year.
The Garden Party brought together restaurants and farmers in a collaboration where the chefs used produce from the farmers to create their dishes.
The event had one rule about who could bring food: you had to be local.
The businesses in attendance ranged from grocers like Bo Hicks at Manna Grocery to restaurants such as Jim N’ Nicks and catering companies, like Mary’s Cakes and Pastries and Snap Decisions Catering.
Good People Brewing supplied the beer and Carpe Vino held a wine tasting in the VIP section of the event.
Good people and good food? The only thing missing was music.
Which is where Red Mountain White Trash came in. An old-time string band jammed barefoot on the wood floor in the corner of the packed room while event-goers chatted and ate off of full plates.
The party attracted people from all walks of life. Some wore “I Know Andy” shirts while others found out about the fundraiser from Facebook posts.
Alisha Gaines, who is in her fourth semester as a teacher’s assistant in the college of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Alabama, took part in the event.
“I came to support local produce,” Gaines said.
Gaines said the DCGP takes compost from the HES college and uses it in their gardens.
U.S. Congressional candidate Don Chamberlain attended the party with business on the brain.
Chamberlain said his support for healthier food choices brought him to the event. Alabama is ranked number four in the nation in obesity.
“They aren’t eating right in schools and 32 percent of people walking around are obese.”
Chamberlain also said believes that Alabama has one of the best natural resources for farming.
“There is no reason we should be buying $1 million in fruits and vegetables from Mexico when we can grow them right here in the Black Belt.”
There was a prime example of that in the crowd as well.
Ann Gibson, owner of Snap Decisions Catering, has been growing blueberries at her home for seven years.
Turner found her at the Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market. Gibson used blueberries from a local farmer to make her blueberry and peach bread pudding.
“You can make bread pudding out of anything, as long as you put enough sugar in it,” Gibson said.
Gibson has lived in Tuscaloosa her whole life. She tells the story of how after the April 27th tornados hit in 2011 her and her business associate, Marla Moss, went and got the donated food from the Salvation Army and cooked it for tornado victims in her shop on Highway 69.
“You’ve gotta give back to your community.”
The Garden Party and its supporters agree they are dedicated to one thing: locality.
Everyone at the event may have had different names, different jobs, and different goals, but they all support the same thing: their community, Tuscaloosa.