Penelope working on broccoli bed
Darius, Jack and Anne at seed-starting workshop
In the spring and summer of 2021 & 2022 CommunEcos operated an urban community garden project to learn and provide experience and education to others about organic vegetable gardening while providing healthy vegetables and greens for donation to food-insecure families in Durham.
Sally Robertson and Jim Warren of NC WARN coordinated with us to offer a large garden space behind their office (roughly across the street from our house at 2811 Hillsborough Rd.) which had previously been developed as a vegetable garden by Harry Phillips, but left uncultivated in recent years.
Our first year we donated vegetables to Fed Up - a food distribution-action network organized by NC Raise Up and the Poor People’s Campaign in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 emergency. In 2022 we donated to halfway houses of Freedom House and the Elizabeth St. Methodist Church food distribution program.
In December 2021 we held a 2-part CommunEcos workshop on how composting works (led by Ginnie Richter) and building a composter for the backyard of the house (led by Sandy) with assistance from the group with construction.
Tenant Gardeners: The project was enabled by two tenant gardeners we recruited who lived in the 2811 Hillsborough Rd. house which was converted into a duplex in late 2019. use of a tenant position in the renovated duplex house at 2811 Hillsborough Rd. Penelope Hearne, who grew up in a farming family in Kansas, led the project in 2021, and we recruited Anna Cashion as an assistant to Penelope for the 2022 season. Both tenants received a discount on rent for their apartments in exchange for volunteering in the garden. In their real jobs, Penelope is an administrator and outreach coordinator with Counter Culture Coffee, and Anna is an architect at Linton Architects.
Student Gardeners: Two UNC undergraduate service-learning students, Darius Brown and Jack Willis, worked with us on the garden project during Spring 2021, while both were enrolled in Sandy's Anth. 539 Environmental Justice course. The students took part in preparing beds, planting and managing the garden, including participation in workshops on building raised beds, seed-starting, making and using rain barrels and vermiculture (or worm bins). Both wrote ethnographic reports on the experience and gave class presentations. Gardening was a new to both, and they were very enthusiastic about the activity and knowledge learned. Their write-up especially remarked on our many unexpected experiences with animals that impressed them -- a hive of bees, several baby snakes, and a bunny with babies in a hutch in the middle of a raised bed!
Several other gardener-volunteers from the Old West Durham neighborhood and/or CommunEcos assisted in gardening activities both seasons, including Ginnie Richter, Anne Lazarides, Elizabeth Stow, Frankie (Angela) Entzel, Liana Stachewiez, Martha Pentecost and Len Stanley.
Lettuce and arugula bed
Sandy uses new pump on a rain barrel