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Urban garden movement gaining ground as barriers for women, minorities come down

Other than the curbside sign "Well Fed Community Garden" on Raleigh's Athens Drive, you might not know there's a small urban farm behind all the thick foliage and gates.

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Rick Armstrong
, WRAL photojournalist
RALEIGH, N.C. — Other than the curbside sign "Well Fed Community Garden" on Raleigh’s Athens Drive, you might not know there’s a small urban farm behind all the thick foliage and gates.

Tami Perdue likes it that way.

"We are illegal operators of food growing," she said with a laugh.

According to Perdue, that’s how Raleigh city leaders have looked upon urban gardens for at least 20 years. That’s how long she and other women, along with Black Indigenous People of Color leading the community garden movement have fought to change the rules.

For instance, rules like not being able to sell their produce from food stands on their property.

Perdue says the tide is turning.

"April 2, we got it. We changed the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) to allow for a community garden to have an on-site farm stand," said Perdue.

Perdue said the current Raleigh City Council is now working to change more rules to help "community supported agriculture" thrive. She believes the coronavirus pandemic was a big factor in changing attitudes.

"I think COVID highlighted the opportunity for us to educate people about where our food comes from and how cities need to be more resilient with regard to that. We don’t need to be getting all of our food from other states," said Perdue.

All the produce grown on the farm is organic. Chickens are the garden’s lone "pest control." Volunteers come to help with planting, nurturing and harvesting.

Local chef Phil Evans is a regular visitor.

"This was my place to come during COVID and walk and just talk to Tami," he said, while walking through the pollination garden among figs and "beauty berries."

Evans turns the produce into delectable art. The vegetables and micro-greens are center stage on many dishes. They are on the Raleigh Convention Center’s new menu called "A Seat at the Table".

Restaurants, participating community members and those who donate their time provide key financial support for the garden. Twenty percent of the harvest is donated to the community reaching those in most need.

"So community is the point of it. It’s community and also food awareness knowing where your food comes from," explained Perdue.

Other community gardens in Raleigh include one operated by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, the Camden Learning Garden Alliance Medical Ministry and Raleigh City Farm.


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