Jacksonville Campus-Grown Food Truck Starting Its Engine
Jacksonville's next food truck is sprouting up from roots planted at school. All the food served at Berry Good Farms On the Go will be grown by students at the North Florida School of Special Education.
Berry Good Farms Director of Transition Ellen Hiser says, "It all started with 200 blueberry bushes."
A few years ago, local parents and people from the community began planting rows on the school's campus.
Tim Armstrong, a parent of a student attending the school and owner of the Eat Your Yard Jax farm, developed the program.
Fast forward to now, the program has grown to a full garden and greenhouse. The fruitful harvest includes a plethora of flavors from veggies, fruit trees and bushes to tilapia and bream fishes.
The special education school started in the '90s to help disabled students ages 6-22 on the First Coast. Armstrong developed the farm for the students ages 18-22. The students learn horticulture skills and practices, such as aquaponics, the growing of aquatic animals with plants in water.
The school also runs a post-graduate program with about 35 young adults. The post- grads are paid for their work to help them prepare for independence.
After the garden is full and the produce is grown, Berry Good Farms sells its food to local restaurants, health food stores and to people in cooperatives filling veggie bags.
Not all of their goodies are given away though; some are saved for the students to use in cooking.
"We have a very flourishing culinary department,” Hires says. “Just last week we cooked Thai seafood soup." The farm hosts an entire Thai garden, infused with limes, ginger and lemon grass.
They are doing well, and their future is looking even brighter.
"It is really a happy place," Hiser says. “The students love to be out there doing different things, learning different things.”
One different thing for the program is the soon-to-be-open Berry Good food truck. The truck was just dropped off this week to be outfitted and will be in business in about two months, Hiser says.
The menu will include wraps, salads, soups, paninis, muffins and smoothies. Hiser says everything sold will be "good, healthy food" produced from the campus farm.
Berry Good Farms is located on the campus of North Florida School of Special Education at 233 Millcreek Road in Jacksonville. Parents wishing to enroll their children at NFSSE can contact Deb Rains at (904) 724-8323.