made in the deep south

Made in the Deep South

November 21, 2014

All Images
Sue Ellen Wilson

By Buffy York

When Michela Swafford purchased a vintage brooch three years ago she had no idea that she would soon dive head first into the world of jewelry design.  Michela decided to repurpose the antique piece as a necklace and thought she might be on to something when someone noticed the necklace and offered her twice what she paid for it.  The light bulb went off and now she collects antiques jewelry from around the world dating back to the 1800’s, deconstructs each piece, reconfigures it using old and new elements and creates unique one of a kind baubles.  Her company, Made in the Deep South, is the definition of “upcycling.”

The uniqueness and variation in style of each piece is dependant upon and representative of the era from which it came.  Each Made piece comes with a “story card” that gives the history behind the original components of the new creation.  The backstory of each piece gives it a sense of mystery and romance.  Michela combined the 1970’s era necklace from an estate in Texas and a 1940’s brooch from Ohio to create the necklace I am wearing in the picture above.

Details like hand cut leather and hand stiching reveal the quality craftsmanship that is part of the Made in the Deep South mission, so it is no surprise that her brand is growing quickly.  In Birmingham her line of unique jewelry can be found at Mia Moda in Vestavia, Elle in Crestline and Festivity in Homewood.  Today and tomorrow Made in the Deep South is participating in the Junior League of Birmingham’s Market Noel.  You can see Michela’s pieces in person at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center today, Friday, November 21st until 8 o’clock and tomorrow, Saturday, November 22 from 9 a.m to 5p.m.

Made in the Deep South


Plant the Seed

June 26, 2014

organic farm
organic farm

Discussing with Chef Hastings my attempt at his famous Tomato Salad at Cocktails on the Farm

Brick and Tin's Watermelon Cooler and Panini Station at Cocktails on the Farm

Summer Vegetable Bruschetta from Paramount at Cocktails on the Farm

zinnia organic farm urban

Zinnias along with organic produce can be purchased in the JVTF Produce Stand

Jones Valley employee Lucy White (right) cooling off under the honeysuckle trellis

Nashville's Steelism playing for a crowd at Cocktails on the Farm

Jones Valley Teaching Farm grows 100's of varieties of fresh produce in downtown Birmingham

JVTF Produce Stand is open weekdays 9-5

JVTF Field Science Lesson

Flowers from the JVTF Produce Market

organic tomatoes heirloom

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes available for purchase at the JVTF Produce Stand

All Images
Jennifer Hagler Photography

By Buffy York

Several years ago I was a sales representative for a large pharmaceutical company and I had a manager ride with me for the first time from St. Louis.  He said. “Ya know, Birmingham is a pretty cool town.”  I agreed and thought “don’t tell anyone we already have enough of a traffic problem.”  That was about the time when what is now Jones Valley Teaching Farm, a growing and production farm with the goal of teaching the community about food and where it comes from, was established on a two acre vacant lot in downtown Birmingham.  While ALDOT has made some strides in remedying the traffic situation on 280, JVTF has not only upped the coolness factor of the Magic City, it has also made leaps and bounds from its small beginnings as a field trip location and urban farm to a well established farming program deeply rooting itself in the Birmingham education system.

While the “Seed to Plate” Field Science Lessons are still a vital part of the Farm, where students learn the science behind farming, harvest produce, and use the YMCA kitchen around the corner to cook a meal, in 2012 the Farm set longer term goals and started the Good School Food program at its pilot school, Glen Iris Elementary.  This past school year the program was implemented at Oliver Elementary and in the next two years it will expand to five schools in the Woodlawn area.  In the Good School Food program students not only study methods to eventually grow their own gardens they also learn financial literacy as well as professional and communication skills. The progam is made up of five components:  Farm Lab, an outdoor learning lab that yeilds fruits and veggies on the school’s campus, Student Farmer’s Market, where students run an after school market and sell fresh produce to their school community, Family Kitchen, which is a series where students and their families attend chef led hands on cooking lessons teaching them how to cook healthy and economical meals at home, and Project Based Learning and Investigative Learning Kits both componets that incorporate problem solving in to core subjects and utilize hands on learning.

JVTF has two major fundraisers each year.  Cocktails on the Farm, put on by the Farm’s Junior Board, which was held this past weekend. Local Chefs and Bartenders from Brick & Tin, Carrigan’s Public House, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Knife Party, Little Donkey, Octane, Paramount, and The Southern Living Test Kitchen created small bites and creative cocktails using produce from the farm like Steva Casey’s (The Collins Bar) take on Rum Punch with Honey Syrup and Basil. The other yearly fundraiser is the Twilight Supper which will be held in September.  Corporate Sponsorship and Grants are also sources of income and individual donors play a major role in funding for JVTF’s Good School Food program.  Gathering Dinners are dinners held in individual’s homes that not only help to raise money for the farm but also help to raise awareness of the mission of Jones Valley Teaching Farm which is to make our community a healthier place and focus on empowering future generations with an education to eat smarter, think healthier and live better.  If you would be interested in sponsoring a Gather Dinner at your home contact Executive Director Grant Brigham at

Jones Valley Teaching Farm is located at 701 25th Street North in Birmingham, Alabama

For information on the upcoming Twilight Dinner, how to make a donation and ways you can volunteer go to

Wearing: J. Crew Factory Tiered Lace Tank (on sale) | Old Navy Cut-Off Shorts | Sam Edelman Genette Sandal (on sale) | Forever21 Everyday Chronograph Watch | Shalla Wista Studio Kaylee Earrings and NamePlate Necklace | Liebeskind Crossbody Bag (similar here) | Essie Nail Polish “Go Ginza”


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