‘We want to be a resource’: SEEDS aims to serve Durham community

SEEDS Farm Manager and Educator Trevor Hyde (left) kicks off the spring semester by teaching DIG’s youth members (from left to right: Kelly Zuniga, Alisha McPhaul, Ornella Nehoumamang, Jekai Taylor and Jasmine Butts) basic concepts of agriculture. (Staff photo by Gianna Tahan)

As South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (SEEDS) rings in the new year, Interim Executive Director Abby Goodman hopes to make their urban gardening programs more meaningful to all members of the Northeast Central Durham community.

Founded in 1994, SEEDS is a two-acre urban garden and kitchen space located at 706 Gilbert St. The organization provides a space for young people to appreciate the earth and build connections with like-minded individuals through growing, cooking and sharing food, according to online sources.

Before stepping into the interim executive director role this year, Goodman started at SEEDS in 2018 as the development and communications coordinator. In both roles, Goodman said she’s enjoyed watching students interact with and learn more about the space.

“Getting to hear from the kids firsthand about all the cool learning experiences that they had and how it was not just affecting them from an educational standpoint … but also from a social and emotional growth standpoint was super impactful for me,” Goodman said.

Last year, SEEDS brought back its DIG program, which provides high school students with a paid opportunity to learn more about urban farming through hands-on activities.

The DIG program relaunched in February 2019 after taking a break in 2016. In preparation for its relaunch, DIG alumni were invited to share their thoughts about the program.

“It was a great opportunity for us to think strategically about making sure that this program was going to continue to thrive for the next generation of high school students,” Goodman said.

Jasmine Butts, a sophomore at Southern School of Energy and Sustainability, said she’s always been interested in gardening and agriculture and believes the DIG program will provide her with the opportunity to grow her passion.

“I am going to have more knowledge on plants and different things and on when to grow them,” she said. “I feel like that is a really important skill to have for when I grow up because I know I want to plant my own stuff, so I can be fully organic.”

The program resumed on Jan. 18 for the year, and Butts is looking forward to gardening when the weather is warmer. She likes that her job with the DIG program is not traditional and gets her out of the house on Saturdays.

Jekai Taylor, a freshman at Charles E. Jordan High School, said the DIG program provides a good learning experience for people without much prior work experience.

“Trevor [farm manager and educator] makes it easy and he does not make you rush it to get it because he knows that it is going to take time, especially working with the garden and making food,” he said. “Everybody is not used to this.”

Last fall, SEEDS partnered with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to offer a six-week family and community program, Cooking Matters. The course was open to the community and gave parents the opportunity to learn alongside their kids.

“[It] happened every Tuesday in November and December, just with easy, healthy recipes and some food to take home,” Goodman said. “Just an opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen learning how to cook a meal that could be affordable and accessible for a weeknight.”

In the future, SEEDS hopes to provide additional family programs, such as bringing community garden beds back to their center.

“For a while, you could rent out one space to grow vegetables if your house did not have a space for vegetables or if you lived in an apartment,” Goodman said. “So, kind of like bringing back those dedicated spaces for community members to come and invest their time in growing food for their families and for themselves.”

Goodman said she is excited for the ways that new leadership will help SEEDS to be more community-oriented.

“We just really care about this neighborhood and the space, and the families who are here,” said Goodman. “We want to be a resource.”

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