BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Growing behind the dining hall at Indian Springs School, are some of the freshest tomatoes you will ever taste.
“We grow a lot of heirloom tomatoes, a lot. We have over 15 different varieties of different tomatoes that’s our specialty,” says Mr. Bob Pollard. He’s been a biology professor at the school for over two decades, and also, the reason for the garden.
“I have been doing organic gardening for about 46 years, that’s always been a passion of mine growing my own food,” says Mr. Pollard.
The Fertile Minds Learning Garden started as just a few raised beds on a small plot of land behind what was the science building more than 20 years ago. Since then it’s grown into an acre that’s fenced in, and even has chickens.
“We grow over 40 different types of fruits and vegetables here, and we have fresh eggs,” says Mr. Pollard proudly. “We grow different types of peppers, cucumbers, different kinds of squash, herbs, apple trees, Asian pear trees, Asian persimmon tress, okra, eggplant, it’s a large amount of variety.”
Students help Mr. Pollard tend the garden, organically.
“Everything we sell is grown here, we do everything sustainably, so no chemicals no pesticides, no herbicides, all organic,” he explains.
Most of the time the produce feeds the students living on campus.
“Everything we grow during the school year goes into the dinning hall, we are a boarding school so we are feeding lots of hungry teenagers 7 days a week,” he says with a laugh.
Students can also use the garden for research projects.
“I teach biology, each semester they have to do a research project, so they can use the garden to do botanical research or plant physiology research , and other students in other classes can use the garden for research purposes,” says Mr. Pollard.
It’s a year-round garden, and the in summer Mr. Pollard and his student helpers normally run a farmer’s market on campus.
This year of course that all changed.
“This year we had to switch to an online system, where people can go to our website and they can choose from a variety of products,” explains Mr. Pollard. “Fridays between 12pm -6pm people can come by and grab their produce with no contact – no cash is exchanged, and it’s worked out pretty well actually.”
Local restaurants have even bought some of the tomatoes. Other produce is donated to local food banks.
This summer Mr. Pollard teamed up with a former student at the “Birmingham free store”
“I have a former student who volunteers there and she has been coming by on Mondays to pick it up,” he says.
If you would like to taste some of the fresh produce, orders are accepted starting Monday morning through Thursday night, for pick up on Friday afternoons. To find a list of products and prices and to order, visit the Indian Spring School website.