SEEDS program help teens “grow”

By Jennifer Kim
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (SEEDS), located at 706 Gilbert St., strives to offer various gardening projects to fit the needs of the Northeast Central Durham community.

DIG Co-Coordinator Santos Flores works with Durham Inner-City Gardener Latasha McMillan in the gardens at the corner of Elizabeth and Gilbert Streets. (Staff photo by Jennifer Kim)

According to their website, the program started in 1994 when Brenda Brodie and Annice Kenan wanted to change the community through gardening.

“This garden shifted people’s thinking of what can be done with space in urban communities,” says DIG co-coordinator Santos Flores. “People started to see it as a way to not only bring the community together, but also bring people together to make food. This garden opened the way for other gardens in the area.”

Kavanah Anderson and Flores co-coordinate Durham Inner-city Gardeners (DIG), an organization that teaches teenagers how to grow produce as well as grow as people.

Vianey Martinez, 16, a junior at Southern High School, said she likes to educate adults about gardening and farming issues because adults don’t expect teenagers to be knowledgeable.

“I really like that I can have an impact on somebody’s life, just like they have had on me,” Martinez said.

DIG is one of many programs offered to youth.  SEEDS also rents out plots to individuals for a small yearly fee and provides some seeds free of charge.

Latasha McMillan, 19, has worked with the DIG program for four and a half years.  She started as a freshman in high school and this January will start as a freshman at North Carolina Central University.

McMillan said DIG is a program that offers students a job until they graduate high school and teaches students about social justice, current issues, farming and public speaking.

DIG Co-Coordinator Kavanah Anderson helps the teens "grow" by working alongside them in the garden. (Staff photo by Jennifer Kim)

“When I first started working, I didn’t like public speaking at all,” Martinez said.  “After I had done it a couple of times, it was amazing the progress I have made.”

McMillan said this semester will be her last one working with SEEDS because she will be starting college.

“The point of the program is to grow up and grow out of it,” McMillan said.  “I know that I’ll keep in touch with everybody.”

She said she has grown a lot since starting her job here.  “It’s easy for teenagers to be nonchalant.  Working at SEEDS, you are confronted with a lot of issues that we don’t think affect us, but they do.”

McMillan said working there has taught her the positives and negatives of farming. “You get to see people eat local and healthy food,” she said.

“On the downside, North Carolina has one of the worst treatments of immigrant farm workers,” McMillan said.  “To be a farmer and see another farmer making less than living wages makes you gain love and respect for them.”

Co-Coordinator Flores came to SEEDS from the corporate boardroom. He says as he constantly watched minorities struggling to climb the corporate ladder, he became dissatisfied with the corporate culture at the company for which he worked.

He said the negative experience inspired him to get involved with community work, a job he describes as “challenging, but great.”

Martinez said she feels her job is more beneficial than the jobs of most of her peers because of the skills she has gained. She likes that her co-coordinators don’t try to act like they have more power than the students too.

“Everybody has the power to say what they want to say,” Martinez said.  “It doesn’t feel like a job. They’re like my family.”

SEEDS has many volunteers outside its DIG program that vary from nonprofit groups, school groups as well as older citizens that have been gardening for years.

“We have a thought process here that anyone that comes to the garden is a part of a continuum,” Flores said.  “Each person, just by stepping in the garden, changes that landscape and changes the experience for others.”

Flores said people should care about community gardening because it is a part of the future.  He said he hypothesizes farms will move closer to cities in the future if transportation costs of food rise and resources become more scarce.

“The community garden will not only be a way to distribute information, but an essential part of culture in producing food and communicating the knowledge of food,” Flores said.

3 thoughts on “SEEDS program help teens “grow”

  1. I’ve had the rare privilege of working with the SEEDS kids, and they are amazing young people. Lucy, Santos, Kavanah — you guys keep up the great work!

  2. Tanya Neice says:

    I wished we had a program like that in Wilkes county. How can you start something like that? Would it work with middle school & high school students?

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