Since its creation in 2017, the Everette Taylor Urban Farm at Mass Market has served as an educational tool for Pre-K to12th-grade students at Lakeland Christian School.

The Everette Taylor Urban Farm teaches LCS students about food production and has become a venue for community workshops. The construction of the Everette Taylor Urban Farm was originally funded by the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency as a way to maximize the vacant space at Mass Market. The Farm was named in honor of a Department of Citrus auditor, Everette Taylor, who died in July 2015 and who was passionate about gardening and making connections across generations. His son, Ahmad, is the artist who painted the mural with Lakeland landmarks at the Urban Farm.

The vision of the Farm is to inspire, educate, and connect the community to fresh, delicious food and to each other. A part of the RISE Institute at LCS, the Farm’s perennial goal is to help students discover the solutions to real-world problems that exceed the community and extend nationwide. RISE students have been passionate about the issue of nutrition for years. The hope is that teaching kids to grow delicious, fresh food will make it more likely they will also eat healthy food. The Farm also provides a way for students to create positive childhood memories with growing and tasting fresh food in an art-integrated space. By integrating science, art, history, and product-oriented activities, the program aims to allow students to become investigators and problem solvers.

Before moving their main operation over to the Everette Taylor Urban Farm at Mass Market, students had been taught how to grow crops for years through their own student-run gardens at LCS where they were able to develop their own solutions to agricultural problems. The RISE Institute homeschool program also had opportunities for middle and high school students who do not actively participate in the on-campus gardens. Some of the students’ favorite plants include amaranth, Aztec Sweet (stevia), Everglades Sweet Tomatoes, green beans, heirloom kale, broccoli, sunflowers, and a wide variety of culinary herbs.

The high school students in RISE Institute Entrepreneurial Leadership and Experimental Science classes have used the Farm as a learning lab through event planning and education, scientific research projects, and building community partnerships. The partnerships that have emerged through the creation of the Farm have provided support for a variety of activities at the Farm, including hosting field trips, farm dinners, chef tasting, and special events for the community, in addition to collaborating with the community groups that serve local residents and selling products to make the Farm sustainable and distributing it through community organizations to benefit those in need.

In addition to providing LCS students with positive experiences, the Farm has allowed students from other schools to visit, tour, and harvest fruits and vegetables to cultivate positive memories associated with food. Student groups are encouraged to book tours at the Farm to get involved. RISE Institute is also able to utilize the farm to provide workshops, resources and education for teachers. If you’d like to be a part of this initiative to make the Lakeland community a better place, contact the RISE Institute for more information on how to get involved.