SEEDS’ annual urban garden festival fun, even in rain

By Taylor Rankin
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

The overcast day and chilly temperatures didn’t dampen the spirits of visitors to SEEDS’ 15th Annual “Art Grows in Durham” garden party on Saturday, September 17, 2011.  Guests of all ages flocked to the gardens on Gilbert Street to enjoy displays of community art and take tours of the vegetable and flower beds.

SEEDS growers (from left to right) Tony Sanchez, Adrien Lopez, Quinton Dorsey and Vianey Martinez show off the produce they harvested just this week. (Staff photo by Taylor Rankin)

SEEDS (South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces) is now in its seventeenth year as a non-profit community garden whose volunteers teach local residents and youth the value of caring for the earth and growing one’s own food, according to their website.

“Art Grows in Durham” is one of the organization’s most popular events.  The festival invites local artists and community growth organizations like the Interfaith Food Shuttle, Duke Gardens and SeeSaw to set up displays.

“We’ve got activities for the kids,” said SEEDS board member Brenda Brodie.  “I just hope the rain doesn’t keep them away.”

The kids did come with rain jackets in tow.  And they had a lot to choose from in terms of hands-on activities.

They dyed eggs in an all-natural dye made from boiling onion skins.  They learned about Madagascar cockroaches and tortoises and they made enormous bubbles from a rope fashioned between two sticks.

This year’s “Art Grows in Durham” garden party was sponsored in part by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, a group that promotes sustainable and organic local and family farms.  The group organized the event participants and activities, according to Brodie.

Saturday’s adult visitors were greeted by a few of SEEDS’ “year-round crew.”  Along with leading tours, these high school students sold the produce that they helped to grow right there on the property.

Local artists teach "Art Grows in Durham" guests of all ages how to dye eggs in an all-natural dye made from onion skins. Crafters used leaf imprints and nylon hose to create interesting designs on their eggs. (Staff photo by Taylor Rankin)

“We have peppers, habanero peppers, basil, eggplant, okra, Malabar spinach and tomatoes to sell today,” said Vianey Martinez, 17, a student at Southern High School.

Homemade spices, made from the peppers in the garden, as well as honey from the garden’s beehives were also for sale.

Artists sold everything from watering cans, to T-shirts, to decorative planners.  SEEDS sold T-shirts, totes and more to help fund the non-profit program.

The highlight of the day was a guided tour through the gardens.  Seventeen-year-old Quinton Dorsey, a student at Riverside High School, showed the vegetable garden first—the source of the tomatoes, spinach, basil, honey and more displayed for sale out front.

Dorsey, who has been working with SEEDS for two and a half years, then led the tour group to the flowerbeds, fruit trees and edible flower beds all the while explaining the significance behind compost techniques and the right times to harvest.

“You can’t put weeds in compost,” Dorsey explained to the group.  “But if you put weeds together, they can make compost.  We are practicing that.”

Dorsey also outlined in what ways SEEDS is a community garden.  They have roadside crops that community members can pick for free as well as 25 community plots that can be rented for anywhere from $1 to $35 a year.  Community members can tend their own plot and practice their own growing and sustainability techniques.

The event, which lasted from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, promoted other SEEDS endeavors like selling produce at the Durham Farmers’ Market.  It also served as a time to reflect on a recent loss to the SEEDS community, the death of garden manager Rebekah Resnick, who passed away a little more than two weeks ago.

Guests enjoyed the activities, and the garden enjoyed the drizzle.  According to board members, the 15th annual “Art Grows in Durham” festival will not be the last.