events

2nd Annual Spring Farm Dinner

On April 1, 2023 Rural Studio hosted our 2nd Annual Spring Farm Dinner event.

A toast is given over a long table sat with guests

Last year’s dinner was such a success, we wanted to bring everyone back together for an evening with friends. Our focus is on smaller-scale sustainable agriculture and ways to invest in our local food system. Along with RS faculty and staff, we were delighted to have folks join us from BDA Farm in Uniontown, the Newbern Library, Schoolyard Roots in Tuscaloosa, and the Black Belt Food Project/Abadir’s.

We shared ideas and updates from the past year. It was also a chance to imagine opportunities to continue working together. Of course, the evening was organized around sharing an excellent outdoor meal, which was prepared by chef Brad Hart and hosted by Johanna Gilligan, both friends and consultants of Rural Studio out of Santa Fe.

A close-up of a plate of food at the spring farm dinner, in this case a green salad with strawberries and parmigiana

Most of the fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit came from Rural Studio Farm (like the fresh strawberries) and the meat was sourced from BDA Farm.

With such great food and fond company, it was a lovely twilit evening, and we are pleased to make this an annual tradition.

Rural Studio Farm and the Black Belt Food Project

West Alabama has a new nonprofit working in Greensboro: the Black Belt Food Project (BBFP), started by our friend Sarah Cole of Abadir’s. The BBFP aims to build a stronger, more inclusive environment for children and adults through food-based educational opportunities. Eric Ball, Rural Studio’s Farm Manager, joined Sarah’s newly formed board, which includes Dr. John Dorsey, Director of Project Horseshoe Farm; Stephanie Nixon from Hale County Library and founder of Sacred Space, Inc.; and Amanda Storey, Executive Director of Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Sarah Cole is standing smiling at a range, seasoning some dishes

Sarah has already collaborated with Rural Studio on several events, like preparing all the excellent food for the Moundville Pavilion Project celebration (made with produce and flowers from Rural Studio Farm).

But now Rural Studio is building a relationship with the BBFP to begin to offer Rural Studio Farm as an educational resource with the broader West Alabama community. Notably, in October, Rural Studio, Newbern Library, and the BBFP are putting together a food event called Food for Thought: A journey through food, history, culture & taste.

And since Rural Studio Farm is producing more food than we can use, this week we started sharing extra produce with the BBFP to be distributed to the public at pick-up points in Greensboro, like in Project Horseshoe Farm’s new “store” space at their headquarters in downtown. It’s a “take what you need, give what you can” market stand.

Meanwhile, on the Farm, we’re moving into Autumn. We are harvesting some of the last warm-season crops like pinkeye purple hull peas, okra, peppers, zucchini, and squash. Sweet potatoes are filling the greenhouse, and we are starting lots of cool-season crops: lettuce, arugula, carrots, kale, spinach, chard, turnips, radishes, broccoli, cabbage, rutabagas, and more.

Newbern Library Summer Reading Festival

student reading to children

Last weekend, the Newbern Library brought together kids and community members from across Hale County for the 2nd Annual Summer Reading Festival. This year’s theme was “Oceans of Possibilities,” and it wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the library board and a host of volunteers. This year’s event featured ocean-themed crafts, face painting, read-aloud story time, fly-fishing demonstrations, live music, and science activities from both the University of West Alabama and Mississippi State University. The first ever craft market was a new addition this year, bringing in local artists and makers to sell their creations to festival-goers. Rounding out the two-day event were door prize giveaways and a delicious barbeque lunch. All of the activities were a huge hit, and the kids of Hale County are ready to get to reading this summer!

Cheers to everyone who made this event possible! A big thank you to library board members Mary Jane Everett, Angela Cabil, Andrew Freear, Jean Watson, Felicia Briggins, Freda Braxton, Kaleda Zanders, Betty Tims, and Carolyn Walthall, librarian Barbara Williams, and Rural Studio’s 3rd-year instructor Judith Seaman for planning such a huge event for the community.

Thank you to our current “leftover” students for running the craft and face painting tents; Hale County Extension for providing healthy snacks and story time; Hale County Hospital for running another healthy snack booth; Leah Vaughn with Mississippi State University’s NASA at My Library program; University of West Alabama for bringing out their Betabox activity center; and the McWane Science Center team. Also, huge thanks to Mark Carlisle, Barbara Turner, Kelvin Bell, and Patrick Braxton for lunch; Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee; Emily Neustrom for the music; Frances Sullivan and Bonita Benner for planning the Craft Market; and of course, every single attendee that came out to enjoy the fun! We have such a wonderful community in Newbern! We look forward to more events like these in the future.