What does it take to make a garden grow? Seeds, soil, fertilizer, water, bees and a whole lot of hard work. It sounds simple, but growing a successful community garden on a vacant lot in downtown Durham requires commitment and tremendous effort from many people.
This effort and vision started with Reinvestment Partners, a community development and consumer advocacy organization focused on promoting prosperity in underserved communities. Reinvestment Partners provided the land and infrastructure, while the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle provided the labor and improvements. Add in legions of volunteers and funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina [Blue Cross NC] and the Geer Street Learning Garden was born.
The garden is part of a broader urban redevelopment strategy by Reinvestment Partners to revitalize a neighborhood once distressed with high crime and few economic opportunities. To do this, they developed a food corridor, anchored by Bull City Cool Food Hub, Geer Street Learning Garden, and a healthy corner store initiative.
It’s revitalizing a neighborhood around the simple concept of food.
“At the individual level food has such great health determinants,” says Peter Skillern, CEO of Reinvestment Partners. “At the community level it’s such a function of geographical access and affordability. On a broader level, food is one of the biggest economic drivers and it’s the thing that we all have in common. We all eat.”
This holistic approach to community improvement through food is at the core of the Food Shuttle’s mission. It’s also why local business partners have made it a point to get involved, including Bee Downtown, who installed two beehives in the garden.
“We have had the honor of seeing this garden grow from where it was all the way up to now. It has been absolutely inspiring and is probably the spot we are most proud of,” says Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, founder and CEO of Bee Downtown. “The garden gives so many children and adults the opportunity to learn, to get their hands dirty, and to put their hands in the ground...an act so many of us don’t ever do any more. Kay [IFFS Garden Manager] is turning this once barren plot of land into an oasis right in downtown Durham.”
How does a garden grow? It grows with support from committed community partners including Reinvestment Partners, Bee Downtown and our garden corporate partner, Blue Cross NC, whose funding makes all of this possible.