Working a bustling street market may not sound like an ideal Saturday to most high school juniors and seniors, but Woodlawn High School students leap at the opportunity.
At almost every Woodlawn Street Market, seven to nine students participating in an internship program at Jones Valley Teaching Farm take shifts vending seasonal fruits, vegetables and flower bouquets grown on a two-acre site in the northwest corner of the school’s campus.
“Woodlawn Street Market gave us an opportunity to see what a real, vibrant street market feels like and what a real, intense business looks like,” said Program Director Scotty Feltman.
Students are required to take one of two shifts at the market, but students usually volunteer for both, Feltman said.
“They’re excited to do it because they have so much fun doing it, which is great,” he said.
Market cofounder Bekah Fox says the farm and its students were early Woodlawn Street Market participants.
“It’s been really exciting to see Jones Valley Urban Farms continue to grow within our community,” she said. “They do an excellent job of nurturing kids in consistent and creative ways.”
One of those ways is making sure they gaining real-world customer services skills.
“The kids get a chance to answer questions that are coming at them, to make quick calculations and meet members to the community and to let them know what’s happening out here,” Feltman said. “It’s not a formal environment, but you’re representing a business, you’re representing a company and we treat it like that.”
They also learn more about product viability.
“When we go to Woodlawn Street Market, we better make sure we have flowers, we better make sure we have collard greens,” he said. “Those are things that are important for any business, kind of knowing what your market wants and what they’re going to buy. These are all really great things for them to see if they ever have any inkling in the future to do something like this.”
Students get to demonstrate the agricultural skills they’re learning.
“There’s more of an interest and engagement for them to be like, ‘Yeah, this is what we have, this is what we grow. This is what we did to grow it,’” Feltman said. “They’re getting to see a business owner’s view of selling a product.”
Fox says she remembers feeling proud of the students after the farm’s crops produced enough food to sell at the market.
“I think Woodlawn is fortunate to have an opportunity like JVTF for students to be a part of if they choose,” she said. “I think we are fortunate when they can make it to the market. Every time they take a new step, I feel like we all win!”
That pride is mutual.
“[The students] always sell everything and they’re always grinning ear to ear the whole time,” Feltman said. “I’ve been proud every single time we’ve done it. They’re the best representatives of our organization that I can imagine and for this community.”
The teens are essentially the ones running the booth.
“They’re the ones that are handling all the money, they’re the ones that are wrapping everything up, they’re the ones that if they’re running low on $1 bills, they have to figure that out, and they always do,” Feltman said.
Jones Valley Teaching Farm, in turn, gets to solidify its presence in the community. That exposure helps drive people to the farm’s weekly sales.
“We’d meet them at market, they’d buy produce from us and come to our pop-up tent that we have here every week because of the relationship we’ve built and the quality of our product,” Feltman said. “Woodlawn Street Market gave us that introduction.”
Feltman said that overall he and the students enjoy the atmosphere of Woodlawn Street Market.
“I think there’s a really good vibe at Woodlawn Street Market, there’s a really good mixture of people,” he said. “You get a lot more representative of not just this community but surrounding communities. That’s not something you get at other markets.”
By Katherine Zobre Alabama Small Business Development Center Network Katherine.email@example.com | 201-503-5927
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