Gardening for the Soul

At the corner of E. Geer Street and N. Roxboro Road in Durham, North Carolina there is something special happening. With the help of Blue Cross NC, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Geer Street Learning Garden and Sunrise Recovery Resource Center are working together to showcase the restorative power of getting your hands a little dirty.

“People in recovery are starting to think about what goes into their body so having access to healthy fresh food is one part of it,” says Kay Coleman, Food Shuttle Urban Agriculture Manager. “The other part is that gardening is good for the soul.”

The produce harvested from the Geer Street Garden is delivered to three different Durham food pantries and community centers. Sunrise is the closest – not simply because it is across the street, but also because of the bonds formed between the Food Shuttle staff and the patrons at Sunrise.

 Garden Manager Kay Coleman and Sunrise Patrons and Leaders, Taye Beasley and Destiney Hammonds

Garden Manager Kay Coleman and Sunrise Patrons and Leaders, Taye Beasley and Destiney Hammonds

“This garden is truly a community garden,” says Destiney Hammonds, a patron and Peer Recovery Guide at Sunrise Recovery Resource Center. “The garden, the food that Kay brings over here has definitely helped out many families.”

“Gardening is very cleansing and therapeutic. Ms. Kay gives the garden a voice. You’ll see her out there rain or shine. People who don’t have anything, when they go over there and work with her, she accepts them as who they are. It speaks a lot.”

Healthy eating has become part of the mantra at Sunrise. Destiney said her diet was mainly based around red meat before working in the garden. Now she eats salads four or five times a week.

 Taye at the Geer Street Learning Garden

Taye at the Geer Street Learning Garden

Taye Beasley, another patron and Peer Recovery Guide at Sunrise, put it best, “We try to promote good health here. Health is wealth.”  Taye had never gardened before finding Sunrise and the Geer Street Learning Garden.

“It takes a lot off my mind if I can come over, dig in the dirt and plant some vegetables. It keeps me in my Zen space, my grounded space, it’s holistic for me,” says Taye.

When asked the best meal they’ve shared from the garden, it was a unanimous response from Taye, Destiney and Hasan, another Sunrise program leader, “Turnips and Collard Greens!”

Garden Manager Kay Coleman and patrons and staff from Sunrise Recovery Center

It’s a partnership that works both ways. For Kay, the folks at Sunrise have made her feel at home in Durham – a new location for her at the Food Shuttle.

“They have been so welcoming and supportive of me and just so fun,” says Kay. “They are always interested in what’s going on. They’ll come by and say hello. It always makes you feel connected when they stop by and say ‘Hey Kay! How are you doing?’

For both the folks at Sunrise and Kay, it’s the power of soil and turnip greens that can change lives and bring a community together.

The Geer Street Learning Garden is supported by a generous donation from Blue Cross Blue Shield NC. To find out more about the garden, click here.

 Sunrise Recovery Center employee Destiney Hammonds inspects a turnip green in the Geer Street Learning Garden December 6, 2017 in Durham, N.C. (Photo by Sara D. Davis)