Tucked away on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina campus in Durham is a small garden oasis! Set next to a public picnic shelter and edged by beautiful woods, the BCBSNC Corporate Garden is a wonderful space to enjoy your lunch break or to visit during weekly workdays, Tuesday and Thursdays. It has been another successful growing year in this unique space.
What looks to many to be a quiet backyard garden, is in fact producing a lot of wonderful, local food for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle! As part of the Nourishing North Carolina grant program, BCBSNC funds the garden completely and donates all produce to the Food Shuttle. The vegetables, harvested by staff and volunteers, are then distributed by the Food Shuttle to Urban Ministries of Durham. Occasionally this year, our Durham Urban Agriculture Interns were also able to harvest the garden bounty for additional community partners in the Lyon Park/West End neighborhoods.
A Bountiful Harvest
During the 2014 spring season, volunteers harvested forty pounds of organic, fresh vegetables; including: cucumbers, beans, peas, greens, herbs and early tomatoes. During the summer months, when afternoon workday temps were in the triple digits, BCBSNC volunteers harvested an additional seventy-five pounds of melons, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers and kale. This fall season has also been good to us! The garden season will extend until the winter holidays begins and volunteers have already been busy cutting over thirty pounds of fresh lettuce, mustard greens, collards, kale, late tomatoes, sweet potatoes and loads of carrots.
Growing Both Skills and Veggies
When volunteers are not busy harvesting seasonal goodies, the garden is also a common destination for BCBSNC department groups to receive urban agriculture training. Through our BCBSNC coordinator and partner, Lauren Scott, employee teams can sign up their departments for a hands-on workshops. Workshops this year were held monthly, beginning in April and continued through September. Groups helped the garden to complete larger projects like building “tater towers” and building “bean teepees” (right). They also participated in composting demos and receive instruction on organic gardening at home. All workdays this year were led by IFFS employee Eliza Bordley, who oversees all Durham Agriculture programming.
Bracing for the Cold
With the winter weather and frosty nights fast approaching, the BCBSNC garden is beginning to slowly wrap up for the 2014 growing year. During the months of December, January and February the garden will be getting a yearly face lift! Bed space will remain the same inside of the garden fence, but the pathways and entrances to the garden will be reconfigured to be more conducive to handicapped volunteers, young children and large groups. Look forward to a fresh new look for our BCBSNC Corporate garden this coming spring, with new beds, signage and lots more vegetables. Workdays will start back in the garden beginning in late March 2015. If you are interested in helping out, email Eliza@FoodShuttle.org. We look forward to seeing you out there when we begin to thaw!
By Eliza Bordley, IFFS Durham Urban Agriculture Manager. Contact: Eliza@FoodShuttle.org