Wake Soil and Water Conservation District, North Carolina

17 Wake County community members gathered to discuss next steps for communication and mapping and to review a presentation for Raleigh city councilors on the importance of supporting urban agriculture projects with examples from other cities around the country. 

The Wake SWCD provided urban agriculture outreach and awareness opportunities to Wake County residents. The district’s urban agriculture specialists built and expanded conservation-based partnerships with local land trusts and other organizations through events like Triangle Land Conservancy’s Wild Ideas for Clean Water program. Outreach included participating in events that served youth, underserved residents, new and beginning farmers, women, established farmers and landowners. In addition, these populations were engaged in workshops concerning soil health, beneficial insects, urban wildlife management and urban and larger-scaled mushroom production.

Support was provided to Good Hope Farm, an urban farm that provides access to farmland and connects residents to local, healthy food. Partners included Piedmont Conservation Council, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, North Carolina Community Development Initiative and The Conservation Fund. Another partnership was formed with Habitat for Humanity of Wake County to assist homeowners with conservation practices at home and garden sites through programs such as the North Carolina Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP).

Other endeavors included contributing to the ongoing work of the Capital Area Food Network (CAFN) to improve the local food system as Wake County continues to grow. The district’s work with the Wake County Urban Agriculture Collective (UAC) resulted in a community forum for the local urban agriculture community to share resources, successes and challenges. By establishing a communication system to share information, knowledge and resources, the UAC can work toward long-term solutions to problems faced by Wake County’s urban agriculture community.  

The district piloted and established another service avenue by offering opportunities for agricultural growers, regardless of their urban, rural or county location, to learn about and adhere to established and upcoming Good Agricultural Practice protocols. This program, in partnership with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Local Produce Safety Initiative and The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (a local hunger relief organization), is critical to offer training on the increasing impacts and importance of food safety protocols that ultimately influence the best management practices for soil health and water quality of farmland.

Urban Agriculture Specialists visited 26 urban farms, community gardens, school gardens and nurseries across Wake County. Assistance was offered to each community along with information about soil and water conservation.  If an individual could not be found during each visit, materials were left so contact could be made at their earliest convenience.

Site visits connected small-scale urban farmers to the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to impart the importance of obtaining a farm and tract number. Several urban growers providing produce to underserved communities were not aware of cost-share opportunities available through FSA, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wake SWCD until speaking with an urban agriculture specialist.

The district’s work with schools and programs targeting youth and underserved populations provided hand tools to students affiliated with the Center for Human Earth Restoration’s garden programs. In addition, the special needs community at Small Miracles received a seed bomb program and Hilburn Academy, a public elementary school serving over 800 students, received an in-depth plan for addressing water issues on site.

Sustainability

All workshop contacts, marketing files, and records have been uploaded to the internal server for Wake Soil and Water Conservation District employees to access. Partners and community members have been given staff contacts for follow-up if they have questions, especially for CCAP programming. Wake Soil and Water Conservation District staff is available for site visits and making recommendations for urban agriculture work in the future.

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