MANATEE -- An eighth-grader's artwork will soon be associated with bringing food to needy neighborhoods across Manatee County, and she's thrilled to be a part of something bigger than her sketchbook.
"It's just so great, and I can't wait to do something to help out people in our local area," said Mia Hereford, 13.
Geraldson Community Farm has partnered with her school, Manatee School for the Arts, to design the farm's new mobile market, set to debut this fall. And they chose Hereford's drawing to decorate the market's exterior.
"I felt so happy and like it was such an honor to have this position in the eighth grade, and getting my name out there as an artist is a really big deal because it's hard to do that," Hereford said. "So I felt really grateful."
The mobile market is the result of a $100,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant won by Geraldson Community Farm and the Florida Department of Health Manatee. After the Airstream is fully gutted and retrofitted to become the mobile market, it will bring Geraldson's organic produce to "food deserts" in Manatee County.
Christa Leonard, Geraldson Community Farm manager, says bringing in students' work unites the community around an educational cause.
"We wanted the community to be involved as much as possible, and our youth is a huge priority in making change," Leonard said. "Manatee School for the Arts is in a food desert, which is our focus, and their focus is art, so it was a perfect partnership." Leonard also likes giving a student professional experience from the initial design to "seeing their idea turned into a brand. It's an amazing opportunity for them."
Leonard and her team at the farm chose Hereford's colored-pencil drawing of a vegetable basket and chicken with a creative and colorful version of the "Geraldson Community Farm" name surrounding the doodles.
"I loved that it was bright, vibrant and looked farm-y," Leonard said.
As a part of Hereford's professional experience, she'll get to work with Kyle Cross. Cross works at Signs 2 Go in Sarasota and is excited to show Hereford how her project will go from a drawing on a page to a digital design used for the market's exterior, signage and other needed branding.
"The idea is to show her how this one little drawing can work in other places," Cross said. "She'll have her fingerprint on something that will do a lot of good for other people."
Leonard also invited other community partners to help with the market. Diana Shoemaker, executive director of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, said the project falls in line with goals of her organization, too. Habitat volunteers helped gut the Airstream to get it ready for retrofitting.
"We are in the community building homes and helping families where food deserts exist," Shoemaker said. "It sustains families in a healthy way, and that's part of what our mission is."
The partnership between the farm and the school came at a perfect time, notes Kelly Hillman, director of events and community relations for Manatee School for the Arts. In January, the school began a culinary class and garden to encourage students' interest in growing and cooking healthful food.
"They're growing their own produce at school," Hillman said. "It's the perfect opportunity to work with Christa and Geraldson Community Farm. The kids are learning how to keep the land, take care of it, grow produce and what to do with it when they finally have it."
Hillman opened up the design contest to all Manatee School for the Arts students no matter the medium; sketch, paint, digital design, sculpture or any other creative tool the students wanted to use. At Geraldson Community Farm's Springfest this weekend, all student entries will be showcased. Springfest is 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the farm, 1401 99th St. NW in Bradenton.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter@jayohday.