Nestled on six acres in Hillsborough County since 1995, Sweetwater Organic Community Farm does more than grow vegetables. They operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership program, host field trips for students of all ages, offer fresh produce and farm tours during their Sunday markets, and strive to educate the local community on the value of farming and personal nutrition through workshops and cooking classes.
Educating the Next Generation
With a passion for educating children on the value of organic farming, Sweetwater offers a number of educational activities to students of all ages – from kindergarten all the way through college. Field trips to the suburban farm among local grade schools are particularly popular. The farm even provides teachers with a curriculum ahead of time so they can incorporate the material into their lessons at school.
“When kids come out to the farm, they get to experience what it’s like to be a farmer for a day,” says Executive Director Yvette Rouse. “Among other things, we take a walking tour of the property and teach them about greenhouses, weeds, composting, recycling, and the difference between city water and well water.”
Students also have the opportunity to get their hands dirty. Children are invited to explore the farm’s herb garden where they can touch, smell and taste what grows on the property – and even take a seed home in a recyclable pot plant.
“We want to make sure the students have fun while they learn about the importance of farming and local food,” says Rouse.
Making Local Eating Easy
For the grown-ups, Sweetwater offers a CSA membership and Sunday Farmers Market and Music Series each week at their primary campus. For a seasonal fee, CSA members receive a share of the farm’s weekly vegetable harvest. Offerings range from collards and cabbage to sweet potatoes, hot peppers and more.
In addition to the CSA, the weekly market welcomes vendors selling environmentally friendly and handcrafted products for visitors to peruse. The farm enforces a no-competition rule to ensure community members have access to a wide variety of local artisans who offer everything from freshly picked produce to farm-fresh eggs and artisan breads.
Workshops and Cooking Classes
An important part of the farm’s mission centers on food accessibility. In a culture that leans more toward frozen meals than fresh vegetables, Sweetwater aims to make healthy, local food available to all. They accept food assistance cards at their public market and offer programs that teach people how to cook what they’ve purchased.
“During our Sunday markets, we offer a lot of different workshops,” says Rouse. “We teach everything from canning and organic gardening to how you can make your own kombucha or kimchi.”
By offering free cooking demos, workshops and nutrition classes, Sweetwater strives to be a place where people can visit, purchase local produce and learn how to cook healthy, delicious meals at home.
“There’s a genuine need in our community for healthy, local food,” says Rouse. “We want people to know our farm is here and that we have the resources to help meet those needs.”