Shady Side Academy's student-run farm brings goods to farmers market
Shady Side Academy students Shaan Fye and Juliana Sandford have been tending to the vegetables, fruits and herbs growing at their school's farm.
They will join other student volunteers this summer at the Shady Side Academy farm stand to sell their fresh, seasonal products at the Fox Chapel Farmers Market, which will open June 3 for its fifth season on the school's campus.
“I like the hands-on aspect,” says Sandford, a junior who also worked at the farm stand last summer. “You don't get a lot of opportunities in high school to do things like this. It's been a good experience.”
Students earn physical-education credits for participating at the farm, where they plant, tend and harvest items during the school year.
Students also volunteer over the summer to operate their farm at all three Shady Side Academy campuses, two in Fox Chapel and one in Point Breeze.
“We grow a very wide range of vegetables and some fruits and herbs,” says Fye, a student market manager.
They produce many items including tomatoes, kale, chard, peas, beans, onions, spinach, lettuce, squash, husked cherries, strawberries and herbs such as basil.
“Our biggest seller is kale,” Fye says. “People like kale smoothies. I like bringing healthy foods to the community; it helps shape what I want to do with life. I was into finance, and now I'm into sustainable agriculture. I want to use finance in sustainable agriculture.”
Students also are growing their product lines with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries they plan to add to next year's farm stand.
Money raised from the farm stand at the market is used to purchase seeds and equipment. Students donate any unsold items to the school's dining hall for lunches.
“The returns are exponential,” Fye says. “Students come up to me and say the food is better at lunch. They are getting introduced to healthy foods.”
About 15 students work on the farm during the summers while many more participate during the school year, according to Sarah York Rubin, director of programs at Shady Side Academy.
Each summer, three or four students serve as market managers, York Rubin says.
“The student market managers are learning real-time lessons about business, economics, finance, marketing, design and public relations,” York Rubin says.
“The most invaluable component, in my opinion, is the relationships they have created with our vendors,” York Rubin says. “The students have a much better understanding of the rewards and struggles of operating a small business, and there are no better mentors than our vendors.”
Sandford says, along with working at the farm, she will help with the farm stand, incorporate recipes and manage a newsletter.
“The Fox Chapel Farmers Market has really evolved into a community watering hole, which is something everybody can appreciate,” York Rubin says. “The vendors all know their customers, and the customers have all come to know the student managers and each other.
“We have corn hole, sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, bistro tables and live music set up so that families can sit down and enjoy a smoothie or catch up at the end of a day.”
Many area vendors participate in the farmers market, bringing their seasonal produce, foods such as cheese, honey, eggs, grass-fed meats and desserts and handmade items.
Vendors this year include Bandy Woodworks, Blackberry Meadows Farms, Bloom Into Being, Clean Green Generation, Goodies Chocolatier, Good Life Juices, GreenLight Juice, Hanna's Honey, Metz Culinary Management, Olive & Marlowe, Pisarcik Greenhouses & Flower Farm, Pop Moe Kettle Corn, Randita's Organic Vegan Cafe, Santarcangelo Specialties and Small Batch Sauces, Serenity Hills Farms, Sturges Orchards and Troyer's Bakery.
Debbie Black is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.