Guest Blog: Growing Community

Katie Murray is the Raleigh Urban Ag Programs Manager and has been the visionary behind the Camden Street Learning Garden since its inception in June of 2014.  The Camden Street Learning Garden recently celebrated its first annual Growing Community Fall Festival on November 19th.

Over 115 community members attended the event including Seed to Supper graduates, community gardeners, City Council representatives and the Raleigh Police department...just to name a few. The festival was a celebration of the success of the garden, not just measured in what was a bountiful fall harvest but most importantly, in the growth of the surrounding community.

When we first broke ground on the Camden Street Learning Garden, I could envision so clearly the promise that the space held.  The days I spent drawing plans for what the garden would one day look like were thrilling.  But the more time I spent getting to know the incredible community surrounding the site, the more I realized that the intangible pieces of this place were where the magic would really happen.

Camden Fall Fest

Camden Fall Fest

Something truly remarkable was taking root on this collection of vacant lots on the southeast side of downtown Raleigh.  We were establishing a place where people could discover parts of themselves that they never knew existed.  It would be a place where individuals could connect as friends across racial, religious and socio-economic divides and feel like a part of something bigger than themselves.  We would work alongside our neighbors to not just grow food but more importantly, people, relationships and community. 

Over the last two and a half years, I have watched as all of this has come to pass, in the most beautiful and life affirming ways.  I have seen our senior gardeners capture the attention of middle schoolers as they talk about growing up on a farm.  I have seen our elective students from Hunter Elementary discover the joys of worms, landscape design and digging up sweet potatoes.  I have watched Tian take the lead on cooking workshops and teach adults from all walks of life about just how good fried okra is. Jermain is now just as excited about making pickles as he is about playing basketball.  Marion has found a new love for herself as she has learned to grow her own food this year with her children.

This community that we have all grown through our shared love of food has touched so many people’s lives in so many ways.  I can’t wait to see what we will cultivate in the years to come.

By Katie Murray

Raleigh Urban Ag Programs Manager