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Durham County Soil and Water Conservation District, North Carolina

The Durham County SWCD goal to bolster urban agricultural efforts within Durham County was accomplished by providing eight training events; hiring contractors to survey and educate producers regarding available technical services; and supporting two existing entities – the Bull City Cool Food Hub (BCCFH) and the DPS Hub Farm – already serving Durham’s urban agricultural community.

 Workshop Topic Date Host Attendees
1. GAP Certification 9/22/16 BCCFH 22
2. Rain Water Harvesting & Conservation Irrigation 10/20/16 BCCFH 13
3. Nutrient Management, Buffers & Filter Strips 11/10/16 Hub Farm 12
4. Beginning a Produce Operation 1/19/17 Hub Farm 29
5. Local Buyer Discussion Panel & Mixer 2/9/17 BCCFH 63
6. Pollinators & Native Species 3/16/17 Hub Farm 31
7. Backyard Rain Gardens & Wetlands 6/29/17 Hub Farm 38
8. Expanding Opportunities for Minorities in the Local Food System 9/25/17 DSWCD 58

The workshops were attended by a mix of farmers, gardeners, homeowners and conservation professionals interested in managing their land more sustainably and making more connections within Durham’s local food system. As the hosts of almost all the events, both the BCCFH and the Hub Farm had several opportunities to share their work and mission with attendees.

The district hired the Piedmont Conservation Council, Inc. as a contractor to identify and survey existing agricultural operations, including community gardens. Over 257 farms and 24 community gardens were visited within Durham County. Owners or employees at these sites received information and brochures regarding technical services available to them through the Durham SWCD and NRCS to best manage stormwater, nutrient runoff, soil fertility and water usage. Site visits also gave the contractor the opportunity to advertise the BCCFH and the series of training events.

District staff developed the BETC Summer Green Team, made up of Durham Public School teachers and high school students participating in the Durham YouthWorks Internship Program. Teachers and students worked together for six weeks to establish and maintain several urban stormwater management projects (rain gardens, critical area plantings, riparian buffers, structural stormwater conveyances and cisterns) at local schools and community sites. The team visited nine schools and community sites to maintain nine existing storm water management projects, maintain and replant six vegetable gardens, and install six new storm water management projects.

Rain garden installed during the summer program.

While best management practices (BMPs) installation and maintenance was the focus of most of the summer work, student interns and teachers also spent considerable time in the classroom. There, district staff and teachers taught the skills, knowledge and theory behind the BMPs, which were then implemented in the field. Field trips were included in the summer program to introduce students to potential career opportunities in horticulture, agriculture and stormwater management. The team visited a large-scale nursery, an organic farm that grows hydroponic produce, and traditional agricultural farms with produce and animals.

Sustainability

The Durham County Farmland Protection Advisory Board will continue to conduct training events for the agricultural community by organizing 3-4 events during the winter months covering topics of interest to local farmers.

The SWCD Board is interested in taking a more active role in outreach to minorities in the local food system through hosting an annual event that helps create more connections between minority farmers, restaurant owners, buyers, gardeners, local government and nonprofit agencies.

Durham’s BETC program was created in 2010 and has had a proven track record in its ability to leverage public and private funds for conservation, earned income for schools and sustainability improvements for local homeowners. BETC has developed a strong partnership with Durham Public Schools and is a scaleable model that has a strong foundation and well-conceived incremental building blocks to continue to expand the program. Its solid foundation includes teacher trainings that enables program materials and curriculum to reach more students; solid partnerships with public organizations, government, and additional schools; and successful implementation in both high-achieving and lower-resourced schools. BETC benefits institutions, homeowners and students: schools earn revenue and students gain workforce and public speaking skills. Meanwhile, homeowners increase their knowledge of stormwater runoff and increase their sustainability. BETC inspires youth to participate in local environmental challenges in real-world service and solutions for homeowners.

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