Durham’s urban farming movement

Feb. 24, 2014 @ 08:21 PM

 DNA (Durham Network of Agriculture) started in spring 2012. As a response to Durham Mayor Bill Bell’s call to action, a community meeting of 30 farmers, and meetings with representatives from five City and County offices, the goals were clear; to understand and define Durham’s food system, identify key players and services within the system and to connect those services to areas of need.

Since then, DNA has grown to more than 100 farmers, educators, advocacy nonprofits, church groups, Durham Public Schools and food justice groups in the Triangle -- primarily in Durham and Raleigh. What is impressive are the existing agricultural and social justice organizations working tirelessly to provide healthy and affordable foods to Durham residents.

The DUIC hopes to convene DNA with what’s normally viewed as atypical partners such as real estate developers, techies, entrepreneur networks, RTP and food trucks, and thematically with those institutions that deal with poverty, homelessness, crime, local economies, reuse, transit, housing and child development to make sure there is a holistic and collaborative approach.

To advance the goals, a working focus group was created in 2013. DNAGE (Durham Network of Agriculture and Green Economies) grew out of DNA as a 10-12 person assembly in an effort to prioritize needs, highlight gaps and identify partners. As outcomes, DNAGE is completing a food strategy for Durham and hosting community facilitations to streamline existing organizations and encourage comprehensive strategies that combat food challenges, budget constraints and lack of health education.

 DNA and DNAGE are both resident-led and resident-supported efforts to establish a national model for healthy community initiatives. These groups are highly diverse and represent various demographics, ethnicities, income levels, expertise and experiences in community activism and food systems. DNAGE meets monthly and is supported by the DUIC and Neighborhood Improvement Services Department. Last fall the DUIC in partnership with Human Relations Division hosted a symposium on fair housing and healthy communities. Supported by a grant from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the expert panelists highlighted key connections among how we live, where we live and what we eat. Topics ranged from zoning, urban farming in Cleveland, Ohio, health disparities, economic development, veterans, transit to farm-to-table in schools. Participant feedback reinforced the need for information and dialogue as well as plans for implementation of healthy strategies for livable communities.How can you help? Want to join the movement? Interested in more information? Contact the DUIC and subscribe to the DNA list. Residents receive articles, conference dates, food ordinance inquiries and innovative solutions to international food challenges.

Wanona Satcher is creative director of the Durham Urban Innovation Center (DUIC). The DUIC is a division within Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services that specializes in resident-driven innovations.