Oakwood University, a historically African-American Adventist-operated school in Huntsville, in the US State of Alabama, recently opened an organic urban farm set to become the largest of its kind in northern Alabama. Oakwood Farms, which carries the motto “Food to Grow on,” opened its doors in late April with the firm intent of contributing to the natural foods options in the area.
“We’re just starting,” said Oakwood University president Leslie Pollard in a video interview. “We are going to be the largest organic urban farm [in the region].”
According to a video report of Adventist News Network (ANN), which cited school sources, Oakwood Farms is part of the school’s industry recovery initiative. “It is a program that helps the university to keep its tuitions low by turning funds back into campus, employing students and teaching them the value of entrepreneurship,” it said.
The school believes the industry recovery initiative will position Oakwood University to serve the community in northern Alabama with healthy and affordable goods. According to ANN, leaders said Oakwood Farms is a practical way of promoting a healthy lifestyle based on biblical principles.
“There should be 1,800 plants out there,” said Artis Sidney, farm production manager, in a school video report. “And we’ll have some production this year. Some plants are three, four, five years old, so we plan to have some crops this year.”
Sidney shared that they are planning to add more plants and fruit trees to the current offer. “We’ll add some red seedless grapes,” he said. “And then we’ll add some pomegranate trees…persimmons, and figs.”
Pollard explained that Oakwood has 1,186 acres. “We have now about 30 of them on the front side of the campus that we are farming,” he said. “But we have a lot of land that is fertile, and is rich, and this can be a wonderful opportunity for us to bless the community in ways that we have not imagined before.”
The school is planning to add pecan and walnut trees soon. Meanwhile, Oakwood Farms will offer a vegetable garden with a large variety of organic and heirloom plants.
Oakwood University’s initiative is part of a larger contemporary trend that highlights the importance of organic vegetable farming for human health and general wellbeing. Following advice by church co-founder Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventists have long advocated for a plant-based diet, and for useful outdoor work as ways of keeping body and mind healthy.