Bessemer Farmers Market


Camp Fletcher is so thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Bessemer Farmers Market this summer! Running from June 2 – September 15, The Bessemer Farmers Market is the only certified farmer’s market in Western Jefferson County. Each Thursday from 4-6:30 p.m. vendors from all over the Birmingham area set up shop at Alex Bradford Park to sell fresh, local produce to area shoppers.

Major vendors – farms selling a large variety of produce –  include Dixon Family Farm from Clanton, Fiddlers Farm from Hayden, Postell Farm from Verbena, and the Veasey family from Hueytown. These farmers bring their very best seasonal produce, giving those living in the area access to produce they might not find in grocery stores. Other vendors include We Three Beeks Honey from Birmingham, Eleanor Wells from Bessemer with chicken and duck eggs, Carol Cockrell from Bessemer with handmade children’s clothes and hand towels, Magic City Sweet Ice from Homewood and Camp Fletcher. While we occasionally have some produce to sell from our garden, we’re happy to come out each week and talk about our programs with market attendees.

The farmers market is all about access to local, healthy food choices and most vendors participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which is a USDA program administered through our State Department of Agriculture that provides low income seniors access to vouchers than can be used at markets.  The Bessemer Farmers Market also accepts SNAP/EBT payments, and now participates in the Double Bucks Project. This provides SNAP users the opportunity to receive $1 in fruits and vegetables for every $1 they spend on fruits and vegetables purchased with SNAP benefits, up to $20 per visit. This program is funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

There’s a wonderful sense of community each Thursday in Alex Bradford Park, and we’re excited to join with local farmers and vendors to take part in the local food movement. If you would like more information about the market or becoming a vendor, you can contact Joe Openshaw or look for the Bessemer Farmers Market group on Facebook. It’s a great market, and we hope to see you there Thursday!

For more information about Camp Fletcher’s VISTA Education Garden, visit us online!



VISTA Spotlight: Marion

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The beginning of 2016 brought another new AmeriCorps VISTA member to Camp Fletcher. Marion Brown will be serving as the Education Coordinator VISTA at camp, overseeing the development of garden lesson plans and field trip curriculum. We are hoping to have garden field trips available to schools in 2016, and Marion will play a key part of insuring that our programs are relevant, engaging and educational for all students. We know she’s going to do a great job, and we can’t wait for you to learn more about her!

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Marion Brown, Education Specialist AmeriCorps VISTA

Marion is from Mobile, but has lived in the Birmingham area for many years. She holds an AA Degree in Criminal Justice. This is her 5th year serving with an AmeriCorps project. Her past projects include two years with the UAB Civitan AmeriCorps State and National program. She has also worked with many area agencies including the American Red Cross, Lakeshore Foundation, Exceptional Foundation, Head Injury Foundation, Birmingham Aids Outreach, AIDS Alabama, FocusFirst Impact Alabama and Samford University.

Marion says she’s excited to help Camp Fletcher reach area communities, schools and organizations with knowledge of important natural resources.

We know 2016 is going to be a great year for the Education Garden & Camp Fletcher! If you’d like more information about the garden, field trip opportunities, or ways to get involved, click here.


Fall Gardening at Camp Fletcher

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October was a busy month for all of us at Camp Fletcher! We had a great time at all of our Fall Events, and we even managed to plant our fall garden. With the addition of our new VISTA members, Danelle and Chele, we’ve really been able to get to work and the fall garden is looking great!

This is our very first fall garden, and we learn something new each time we plant! Our summer garden yielded corn, squash, tomatoes and more, and we are thrilled to try our hand at some fall vegetables. Our plants this time include carrots, garlic, strawberries, kale, cabbage, collards, and three varieties of lettuce. We also added a fence around the garden and a bench with planters. We couldn’t have done it without the help from Camp Fire Alabama employees spending time in the garden last week!

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Many of the plants came from The University of Montevallo’s Organic Plant Sale. Everything is in the ground and growing, and we’re excited to see what we’re able to harvest in the coming months.

If you would like more information about Camp Fletcher’s Education Garden, click here. We’re always looking for volunteers with green thumbs to help out, so feel free to contact us today if you’d like to get involved!

Fall & Spring Field Trips

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At Camp Fletcher, we bring academics outdoors! With over 300 acres to explore, Camp Fletcher is the perfect place for students in public, private and homeschools to experience nature through hands-on, collaborative learning experiences. We have a broad spectrum of academic and educational lesson plans that were designed specifically for Camp Fletcher, all of which meet Alabama State Department of Education core curriculum standards. A field trip to Camp Fletcher is the perfect way to energize learning and to teach your students to become ecologically literate, responsible citizens!

Field trips at Camp Fletcher can cover a wide range of subject areas and topics, and we always include plenty of hands-on activities. Our program staff is committed to working with your class or school and finding the perfect curriculum to meet the needs of your students. From archery to environmental science to our brand new Education Garden, we know students will learn, grow and explore when they come to Camp Fletcher.

Our curriculum is designed with Camp Fletcher as the classroom. Our programs utilize an interdisciplinary approach to promote the appreciation of our natural surroundings and the values of working together. From learning about science by the creek to developing team-building skills on the ropes course, every aspect of a field trip to Camp Fletcher will leave students interested, engaged and excited about learning. Our aim is to teach students the concepts of sustainability outside of the classroom walls by providing opportunities for students to have experiences with nature in a living environment.

If you’re interested in scheduling a field trip for the 2015-2016 school year, or if you’d just like more information about our programs, you can visit us online or contact us today. Field trips at Camp Fletcher are customized based on the needs of your group, and our program staff will be happy to design a learning experience to fit your needs. If you’d like more information about our Outdoor Education curriculum, as well as field trip policies and procedures, visit the Outdoor Education page on our website today!

AmeriCorps VISTA Spotlight: MiChele!

This week, Camp Fire Alabama and Camp Fletcher welcomed two new AmeriCorps VISTA members to the Education Garden program at camp! These VISTAs are a vitally important resource for Camp Fletcher as they work to engage the community, develop new resources and provide valuable capacity building to our organization. We’re so excited for you to meet MiChele!

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MiChele joined Camp Fletcher as the Resource Development Specialist for the Education Garden project. She is originally from Malden, MO, but lived in the Charleston, SC area for more than 25 years. She comes to Birmingham to spend time with her daughter, and we’re so excited to have her at Camp Fletcher!

What made you decide to serve as a VISTA with Camp Fletcher?
I am very excited about teaching youth about where their food comes from and how to make healthy food choices because of that knowledge.

What previous experiences do you have that you feel will equip you for your position?
I have experience dealing with people from all walks of life and my life experience helps me relate to them in a way that they can find value in our program. I served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Arizona for the last 18 months honing the skills I need in my current role.

What are your goals for your year of service? What do you hope to accomplish?
I plan to expand the network of community partners and continue to grow the relationships with the existing partners in regards to Camp Fire programs and specifically for Camp Fletcher and the Community Garden. I also plan to help establish a support/governing body for Camp Fletcher for long-term sustainability.  I will set up a program for continuity when my service is complete that will allow for seamless portability.

What aspect of your position are you most excited about?
I am thrilled to work with people that are “on fire” with passion!

What aspect of your position do you feel will be the most challenging?
Learning the traffic patterns will probably be the most challenging – it has been so far.

What are you excited to do now that you’re in Alabama?
I moved to Alabama to be near my daughter. (I spent the last two years in Arizona near my son.) I am looking forward to some road trips with her to visit my family in Missouri and friends in South Carolina and North Carolina. I am also really excited about getting to enjoy the fall colors again. Each time I move to a new area, it is like Christmas – getting to explore all the things that are intrinsic to the area. I enjoy camping, hiking, and gardening.

We’re so excited to have MiChele join us for her year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA! For more information about the Education Garden, click here!

Pine Needle Express – Week 1

Camp starts tomorrow, and we know it’s going to be a super busy week! We’re so excited to kick off this summer, so we’ve got the first camp issue of the Pine Needle Express for you. We’ll be posting our newsletter here on the blog each week to keep you updated about what’s going on and give you lots of important reminders. Take a look at the newest issue of the Pine Needle Express, and we will see you bright and early tomorrow for our first day of camp!

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The Camp Fletcher Education Garden

Peppers grown in the garden at Camp Fletcher

In 2014, we started developing a brand new component of our outdoor education program at Camp Fletcher. The Education Garden is a small teaching garden where campers and visitors will have the opportunity to learn about where food comes from, how it’s grown, and the importance of eating healthy food! We believe that access to and knowledge of healthy food is vitally important, and we want our campers to have the opportunity to learn about fresh produce and gardening. Our goal is to get kids interested in all aspects of gardening from science to math to healthy living.

Last summer, we grew peppers, watermelon and okra in the garden, and we cared for honey bee hives as well! This year, we are hard at work planning our garden and caring for the bees, and we plan to launch our education program during camp this summer! Campers will learn about plant life, soil, and a healthy diet and be able to assist with plant care and harvesting. This fall, we will offer garden field trips to local schools and home school groups, as well. We are so excited about the opportunity to teach kids about gardening, and to give them the chance to work in the garden and see where their food comes from.

We know the garden will be a great education resource for all the kids that spend time at Camp Fletcher, and we hope you’re excited, too! Gardening is a lot of work, and we are currently looking for volunteers to help in the garden. If you have some experience or interest in gardening and would like to help out, please contact Camp Fletcher at 205-428-1059 or by emailing

All of the produce grown this summer will be sold, and all proceeds will benefit garden programming. If you are interested in buying produce or honey from Camp Fletcher, check back soon for updates about where we will be selling!

Honey bees are buzzing…

Did you know that we have three honey bee hives at Camp Fletcher? These hives are part of our new outdoor education program at camp, designed to teach kids about healthy food, science and nature in an interactive learning environment! Our bees have been dormant for the past few months, but this weekend we had a volunteer come out to camp to check on our hard working bees.

Our volunteer fed the bees sugar to help them survive the winter. Sprinkling sugar in the hive once a month helps the bees last through the cold, lean months. Bees are less active in the winter, and we wanted to be sure the hives were still in great condition.

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Staff and volunteers who are not trained with bees should keep a safe distance away from the hives at all times.
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Our volunteer sprinkling sugar in this very active bee hive!

As the weather warms up, our bees will become more and more active. In the spring, we should be able to collect and process our first honey harvest. Honey can be harvested twice a year, in the spring and fall, as long as the bees have produced enough honey for themselves to survive the winter. Making and selling honey is the primary reason we have bees at Camp Fletcher, but they also have other benefits; bees pollinate flowers, increasing their health and enhancing nearby gardens. Additionally, buying and consuming honey made where you live can help with allergies because the pollen helps your body build up immunity to allergens in your local environment.

Caring for our honey bees is a fun and exciting activity that camp staff and trained volunteers have the opportunity to help with. As we get ready to harvest honey in April, we will be sure to keep you updated on our bees and where you will be able to buy our fresh, local honey!