Check out a community garden. There are dozens in the City of Oaks, growing fruits, veggies and flowers; some even house chickens, beehives and other animals. Most offer volunteer opportunities, too, so you can have a hand in the planting and harvest yourself.
They’re in the unlikeliest of places—from schools and daycares to churches.
With the desire for local food, it’s easy to see why community gardens have been sprouting up around Raleigh the past few years. Gardens do more than produce fresh, healthy food.
Tending plants becomes a group effort, fostering a sense of camaraderie. Plus, there’s always someone to help if you don’t know what you’re doing. For seasoned farmhands, it’s a prime way to connect with like-minded people and share expertise.
In Raleigh, community gardening is allowed on private property almost anywhere, provided zoning, code and ordinance conditions are met.
About 30 community gardens dot the city, estimates Anya Gordon, co-owner of the Irregardless Café and active proponent of urban agriculture.
“To my mind it has to do with the growing recognition that the food we are eating is making us sick, destroying our environment, using up non-renewable resources and exploiting the underclass of guest workers,” she says.
Gardeners in North Carolina have the advantage of seasonal crops year-round. “In this area, we can grow four seasons, with different crops in each season,” Gordon says. “It’s amazing how much can be sourced locally.”
What’s in season?
Winter: Bok choy, Brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, rutabaga, spinach, peanuts, sweet potatoes.
Spring: Strawberries, arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, green onions, mustard greens, blueberries, cabbage, hot peppers, kale, leafy greens, squash, snow peas, zucchini, radishes.
Summer: Blackberries, honeydew melons, peaches, plums, watermelon, turnips, canteloupe, raspberries, figs, grapes, pears, butter beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, green beans, okra, tomatoes, white potatoes, green peppers.
Fall: Apples, muscadines, Swiss chard, winter squash, pumpkins, cauliflower, spaghetti squash.
Check These Gardens Out:
Well Fed Community Garden
1321 Athens Drive, Raleigh
The Well Fed Community Garden, sponsored by the Irregardless Café, uses organic practices to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers and provides a home to eight chickens and two beehives. The front yard contains a walking labyrinth and native flower pollinator gardens. The Irregardless Café purchases 80 percent of the produce grown by the garden while the remaining 20 percent is given back to the community. Volunteers are welcome two days a week to learn about urban agriculture.
The Wedge Garden
214 Park Ave., Raleigh,
at Alexander Family YMCA
Established in 2010, the mission of the Wedge Community Garden is to promote a healthy and connected neighborhood through gardening, educating neighbors and volunteers, and sharing the harvest with neighbors, volunteers and the community. The garden got its name from its wedge-shaped plot on Park Avenue.
Alliance Medical Ministry
101 Donald Ross Drive, Raleigh
This garden in Southeast Raleigh, founded in 2010, provides fresh produce to the ministry’s uninsured patients. It’s the focal point of a wellness program that provides produce, education and exercise. Volunteer opportunities are available.
Raleigh City Farm
800 N. Blount St., Raleigh
Raleigh City Farm got its start in 2011 from a group of community-oriented people who wanted to show the importance and value of an urban farm with a social enterprise model.
“Raleigh City Farm grows food – sustainably – on our small plot of land while also working with several local member farms,” says general manager Rebekah Beck.
Member farms receive help co-marketing and branding their produce for sale to local chefs and restaurants and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members. “The goal is to help community members know and appreciate where their food comes from by serving as a very active and visible example of urban farming,” Beck says.
Stop by the Saturday Farm Stand (9 a.m.-noon) in the bustling Person Street Plaza area to pick up some fresh produce. Events are held throughout the year incorporating local food, beer and music as well as workshops, farm tours and work days.
On Saturday, April 23, RCF will hold it 4th annual bEARTH day celebration. From 9 a.m. to noon, the community is invited to volunteer at the Farm. A concert and party from 6 to 10 p.m. will follow. Tickets on sale in March.
In August of 2015, Crude Bitters and Sodas’ “Rizzo” won the first Good Food Award given to a bitters manufacturer. Rizzo is a bitter flavored with rosemary, grapefruit and peppercorn. GF awards are given to products with high environmental and social stewardship and exceptional flavor.