High School Students Build A Farmer’s Market In A Food Desert

Bertie Country, North Carolina, is an agricultural community, but most of its residents still don’t have access to fresh food. With this new market, they will–plus some beautiful architecture.


Bertie County, North Carolina is the poorest county in its state, with  residents who are largely obese and an agricultural economy that is reliant on tobacco, cotton, peanuts, and soy. It’s also home to Emily Pilloton and Studio H, a design/build program in a local public high school. This past year, Pilloton and partner Matthew Miller led a class of high school students in designing and building a much-needed (and quite beautiful) farmer’s market pavilion for the area.

The project was the culmination of over a year’s worth of work. Before even thinking about building, Pilloton had to start with the basics. “Almost none of the students knew how to read a ruler,” she says. “None had any design experience, and some had never even held a hammer.” So Miller and Pilloton taught the students math, how to lay out projects, how to use shop equipment–essentially, everything they needed to know to go out and build.

“We were high school shop teachers on paper,” says Pilloton. But students who participated in Studio H also received transferable college credits and a summer salary for their work in actually building the 2,000-square-foot Windsor Super Market pavilion, which is already being used by farmer’s market vendors.

The idea for the farmer’s market pavilion came from both the students and the local community. “It was something the town wanted,” explains Pilloton. The pavilion is the third project from Studio H students. The first project was a small cornhole board, and the second was a series of chicken coops that were given away to families after a flood destroyed the town. Studio H’s farmer’s market pavilion, however, was the first large-scale project.


Pilloton isn’t sure what the next project for the incoming Studio H class will be. “I want it to come from the students,” she says. “I want to help them find something that they’re going to be passionate about.”

[Images: Studio H]

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.