When Advocates for Health in Action hosted the first annual Dig In! workshop five years ago, organizers were primarily concerned with providing basic information about how to start a community garden.
Residents and community groups were eager to know what a community garden could look like and were in search of technical assistance as they got started.
“It just became clear that people were scrambling for information,” said Carol Mitchell, a board member at the nonprofit who also works at the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Wake County Center.
Today, while the workshop still addresses the basics of community gardening, it has expanded to consider far bigger questions about how community gardens, urban farms, farmers markets, local food restaurants and others can work together.
“We’re sensing that our community is ready for a broader effort,” Mitchell said.
This year’s workshop is Saturday at Marbles Kids Museum.
Among the presenters is Erin White, the head of Raleigh’s Community Food Lab, who will introduce the idea of a “food corridor” along the Blount Street-Person Street corridor downtown.
White said the goal is to figure out how to create a space where various food projects are in close physical proximity to one another and can work together more effectively.
Not only should a food corridor be a place with existing assets, such as the Raleigh City Farm in the Blount-Person corridor, but it should be a place where the neighborhood would benefit from the work.
White said he wants the corridor to help address issues like the presence of food deserts, where people have little access to quality foods, and other social and economic inequities. He’s hoping for further input from residents and community groups about how to make that a reality.
“It’s really about intentionally bridging diverse neighborhoods,” he said.
Sara Merz, executive director of Advocates for Health in Action, said it’s been interesting to watch the “huge shift” in the way communities talk about urban agriculture.
No matter which direction the effort takes, though, Merz thinks it’s important it remain rooted in helping people live a healthy lifestyle, both physically and socially.
“I really see this as a happiness project as much as a health project,” she said.