( Courtesy PMA )

The Produce Marketing Association has chosen Jones Valley Teaching Farm, Birmingham, Ala., as its first Impact Award recipient.

The new award, announced at last fall’s PMA Fresh Summit, honors “excellence and inspirational actions of people and organizations helping to grow a healthier world,” according to PMA board chairman Joe Don Zetzsche, when he introduced the Impact Award program at the show in Anaheim, Calif.

Jones Valley Teaching Farm reaches more than 3,500 students a year at seven fruit and vegetable farms, six of which are at Birmingham public schools. Many are concentrated in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood, according to a PMA news release, so students are involved in the program from pre-school to high school.

Full-time instructors at each farm work with teachers to customize curriculum to apply classroom learning to the hands-on farm experience.

“We know that one of the most powerful things a person can do to live a healthier life is to eat more fruits and vegetables, and establishing habits at a young age is key to lifetime produce consumption,” Lauren M. Scott, PMA chief strategy and membership officer, said in the release. “Jones Valley Teaching Farm has created a community movement that helps children access and learn about farming through a meaningful a hands-on experience that is shaping their relationship with food, providing a deep learning experience, and shaping their communities in a very important way.”

PMA established a webpage for the program, https://bit.ly/35KO2nt, and produced a video about the Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

One-fourth of the organization’s staff is former students who participated in the farm program, according to Amada Storey, Jones Valley Teach Farm executive director, said in the release.

“That is intentional and is shifting the paradigm of non-profit and that’s important,” she said in the release. “When it’s students who have been through the program and can then be able to direct it, that is community change.  That is opportunity.”

PMA plans to announce two other Impact Award honorees in the coming weeks.