community garden

Raising the Roots: Starting a Community of Backyard Gardens at Parrish Manor

IFS_beet-hunger_d03September is Hunger Action Month. Learn more about one of the ways we're "beet"ing  hunger - by teaching communities how to grow and prepare their own food and creating greater access to good food - sometimes literally right in their own backyards! In the community of Parrish Manor last week, three young self-proclaimed “Garden Ninjas” not so surreptitiously built a 4 x8 raised garden bed in front of the park office and planted it with plenty of fall vegetables, herbs, and flowers. This isn’t guerilla gardening, it’s a demonstration garden, and it’s part of a new backyard gardening program beginning there, led by youth garden mentors Kiara, Seth, and Mario.

Since 2009, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has worked in the community of Parrish Manor to help start and manage a community garden there, most recently along with the three youth garden mentors, who have spent the last year working at the community garden and learning about agriculture and food preparation. Now, gardening in the community will take a different form – one that is immediate, local, and practical for Parrish Manor residents: personal gardens in their backyards.

The youth garden mentors have created this new raised-bed garden pilot program, called Raise the Roots. After getting feedback from the community about what they wanted to see happen in their neighborhood and about  how to increase gardening participation, they came up with a way to support residents in growing fresh, healthy, chemical-free food in their own backyards. It’s a program created by neighborhood youth, in partnership with and support from Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and the Parrish Manor management.

How will the program work?

Raise the Roots logoRaise the Roots (RtR) will work with interested residents to design and build various sizes of raised garden beds in the residents’ backyards. RrR will provide supplies and materials to get the residents started, all free of charge through this fall and following spring. They’ll also provide free workshops in gardening and food preparation after the planting season to help residents manage and prepare what they grow. The youth garden mentors will do what their name suggests, and provide ongoing support and assistance to the new backyard gardeners.

As the youth were working on the demonstration bed in front of the office, a few interested folks were already wandering over and asking about the garden– giving Kiara, Seth, and Mario a chance to practice their pitch and explain the new program.

IMG_4584While the garden beds will be in individual residents’ backyards, the building of them will be a community effort. In order to receive a garden bed, residents are asked to help build at least 2 other beds in the neighborhood as well. They’re signing up to grow, to learn, and to help other neighbor gardeners as they can.

It’s already taking shape as a community project – Thomas, the landscape manager at Parrish Manor, enthusiastically helped out with the build, assisting with leveling and squaring off the lumber for the bed frame and bringing tractor-loads full of compost and leaf mulch to fill it.

Planted in square-foot gardening style with a mixture of direct seeding and transplants, the demo bed will now act as a calling card for Raise the Roots.

The rows of red-leaf lettuce, purple mustard, rainbow swiss chard, dinosaur kale, spinach, romaine, cilantro, and parsley aside colorful zinnias are intended to entice passers-bys with its beauty and potential for a delicious, nutritious meal. A sign directs folks to inquire in the office about having one like it built in their own backyards. Each of the youth will also have a similar garden bed in their own backyards that they can show to their neighbors.

Why garden? IMG_4646

Gardening is a great way to get direct access to healthy, affordable food and empower families to take control of their food choices. With a garden in their own backyard, residents can work in it according to their own schedule, plant what they like to eat, and literally step out their door to reach it. And, it's another way to get in that physical activity!

With a network of food gardeners in the community, the neighborhood can become a landscape that meets the need for healthy, fresh, and affordable food – an asset currently lacking in the food desert where Parrish Manor is located. Raise the Roots hopes to provide opportunities for residents to reconnect with each other and the land, honor the cultural food traditions and practices in the community, and perhaps even provide opportunities for microenterprise. In a few months, after several beds have been built and community members have joined the backyard gardening network, the youth, other community leaders, and program partners will begin planning for how to keep this program going for many years to come. Most importantly, residents can rely on themselves for greater food self-sufficiency and be more in control of their food choices and health. As one youth put it, the program aims to “put fast food out of business!”

Mario, Kiara, and Seth: Raise the Roots crew, aka Garden Ninjas, aka Youth Garden Mentors

The Community and Clinical Connections for Prevention and Health Branch in the N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. Public Health Foundation are responsible for the administration of these grant funds, provided by the John Rex Endowment.

To help support and sustain Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's programs like this one that feed, teach, and grow to end hunger hunger in our community, consider donating today or becoming a monthly Ground Level Giver! Together, we CAN "beet" hunger!

Part 3: Gardening Class for Teens at Parrish Manor

Students from NC State University (NCSU) have partnered with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to conduct a gardening class for teens in the community garden we manage at Parrish Manor, meeting once a week from Sept. 27 - Nov. 15. On the day I visited, NCSU Soil Science students Natalie and Jacob were teaching a lesson on compost. They brought with them a bag of un-enriched potting soil and some finished compost. As an experiment, they asked the class participants to fill 6 mason jars with the following: Potting soil + vegetable scraps; Potting soil + paper scraps; Potting soil + plastic scraps; Compost + vegetable scraps; Compost + paper scraps; Compost + plastic scraps.

The teens in the class then talked about which material might break down the fastest, considering factors like the amount of micro-organisms present, the amount of nitrogen, etc. Their hypotheses: The vegetables will break down in compost fastest, and the plastic in potting soil will break down slowest. They’ll monitor the jars in the coming weeks to see if their hypotheses are correct.

Labeling Jars Soil Science

Soil Science Jars

Natalie and Jacob also taught the class about waste management and jobs that involve waste treatment and composting. They began the lesson by asking the class to draw where they think waste from our toilets goes after it’s flushed, and ended by highlighting ecological waste water treatment practices like those in the EcoVillage of Findhorn, Scotland. They discussed job opportunities in composting, such as vermicomposting mico-enterprises, where such nutrient-rich worm castings are sold as natural fertilizer, and composting operations like CompostNow (another IFFS partner). It was clear to me these teens were seriously interested in this stuff –Kiara, who also works in the garden, is even thinking about changing her major at Wake Tech to something involving agriculture!

The following week, they nailed together compost bins for the garden, and the teens got to create their own vermicomposting bins!

Vermicomposting Bin


Parrish Manor Vermicomposting

Fun fact: Did you know that worms can eat twice their body weight in one day? Wow!

See what else has been happening in the Parrish Manor community and community garden in Part 1and Part 2 of this series.

Great American Tobacco Duck Race 2012 in Downtown Durham

      You're invited... 

 Sunday, October 7, 2012 at Fox 50 Family Fest 1-5 pm

 on the banks of the Ol' Bull River at American Tobacco in Downtown Durham

Purchase your duck here:

All proceeds from this purchase go to Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

  • You can purchase one duck or as many as you want. Individual ducks are $10 each and Corporate ducks are $250. On the day of the event the ducks will be simultaneously released to race swiftly down the Ol' Bull River. More information and contest rules here.
  • Prizes include Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat Basketball Tickets, Duke Men’s Basketball Tickets, tickets to see a Broadway Show at the DPAC and more! There's even a prize for the "Best Decorated Duck!"

How to Claim Your Duck(s) after purchase: 

  • Option 1 - Bring your receipt to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, 1001 Blair Dr., Raleigh, by Sept. 28th, M-F 9am - 5pm
  • Option 2 - Bring your receipt to the American Tobacco Caompus on the day of the event, Sun. Oct. 7th, 1pm - 3:30pm

What Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Does in Durham


Your duck purchase will help support Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's work to end hunger in Durham and throughout our service area including Durham, Wake, Orange, Chatham, Johnston, Edgecombe, and Nash counties. In Durham, we fight hunger through:

  • Food Recovery and Distribution & Mobile Markets: We distribute free fresh produce through our numerous partner agencies in Durham as well as our monthly Mobile Markets at West Durham Baptist Church and Iglesia El Buen Pastor.
  • Community Gardens: In the West End Neighborhood, IFFS works with and employs neighborhood youth to grow food. Our corporate community garden at BCBSNC grows food for IFFS's Plant a Row for the Hungry program, which is distributed to agencies in Durham that feed the hungry.
  • Nutrition Education: We teach nutrition through Food Matters healthy cooking demonstrations at our monthly Mobile Markets and through Cooking Matters classes at community organizations like the Durham Teen Center, Durham Housing Authority, and Bull City Fit at the Edison Johnson Recreational Center.
  • BackPack Buddies: We provide weekend meals for children in need at Eastway Elementary, Y.E. Smith Elementary, Glenn Elementary, C.C. Spaulding Elementary, Forestview Elementary, and the John Avery Boys & Girls Club.
  • In-School Pantries at Southern High School, Northern High School, Hillside New Technical High School, and Neal Middle School.


Thank you for your support, and see you at Family Fest!