By: David L. Fitts, Jr.
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
As winter descends on the “Bulls Eye,” some residents will participate in a new program to ensure their access to healthy food options. Fifty NECD residents will receive backyard vegetable gardens in the coming months thanks to a $15,000 grant.
In June, planning began for the Northeast Central Durham Urban Garden Project under the leadership of Constance Stancil, City of Durham Director of the Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services (NIS).
With assistance provided by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Adopt a Neighborhood for Development (AND), funding for urban gardens became possible.
“This project is targeted towards seniors and low income families living in NECD,” said Stancil. “Families will receive either a raise bed or regular garden upon request if they apply.”
Right now, the main focus of the project is to ensure that residents are able to have their winter garden intact before the cold sets in.
Jeffrey A. Ensminger, executive director of Natural Environmental and Ecological Management (NEEM), takes care of this task. With the help of his staff of five volunteers, residents and the students and staff from Duke and NCCU, this does not solely fall on his shoulders.
“Our goal is to make sure that the residents have a labor free garden that is accessible to them at all times,” said Ensminger.
Ensminger has planted a multitude of vegetables at a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) garden and greenhouse near Lakewood Shopping Center. This location holds 14,000 plants. This centralized location allows Ensminger to interact with residents and make sure that the vegetables are growing the way they are supposed to.
“All of the plants grown are certified organic plants. There is no chemical input at all,” said Ensminger. Some of the vegetables include arugula, collards, broccoli, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, lettuces and brussel sprouts.
When the plants are ready, Ensminger’s team transplants them to residents’ garden plots.
Although families will be getting gardens, not all of them will be the same. Ensminger wants to provide everyone with a variety which will expose people to some new types of vegetables that they may not be used to.
He is trying to encourage residents to have a community garden where everyone can come together and share. If residents wish to have one, Ensminger will place a garden in a central location near the residents who want a communal garden.
Ensminger believes that this project is worthwhile and helpful. When he is putting down the gardens, he likes to know who he is working for and wants to know what it is they want in their garden.
“I am really pleased with having my own garden,” said Elnora Atkins, 73, of North Maple. “I’m waiting for it to get bigger.”
Atkins, who received her garden in October, heard about the program from a friend.
“In my garden, some things I was given were collards, sage, squash and lettuce,” said Atkins. She is pleased with Ensminger’s work and is especially happy to have someone help her to have something to call her own.
“It feels good knowing that I have helped play a part in helping someone have fresh vegetables and herbs in their own garden,” said Stancil.
Growing vegetables takes a lot of patience, time and work. Ensminger requested an additional grant for the greenhouse roof. The roof will double as a rain harvesting system for the CSA greenhouse.
Ensminger, his staff and volunteers plan to plant spring and summer gardens for residents who received the winter gardens.
“We want people to know about this project and would like to have their support,” said Ensminger.
To learn more about the activities of NEEM and what they do around the world, check out the Web site http://www.neemtree.org