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New Urban Food Hub Aims to Make Veggies “Cool” For Durham Residents

August 12, 2015


Photo of 902 Mangum St in the 1950’s when it was a Gulf gas station. Photo from carolinafarmstewards.org

Photo of 902 Mangum St in the 1950’s when it was a Gulf gas station. (Photo from carolinafarmstewards.org)

If you’ve been through east Durham recently you may have noticed some construction at the intersection of Geer Street and Mangum Street. What was once a gas station and a tire shop is being transformed into a “food hub” for three local organizations: Farmer FoodShare, Bella Bean Organics, and Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

Bull City Cool is the name of the new innovative food hub. It is the brainchild of Peter Skillern, the Executive Director of Reinvestment Partners, a local community development nonprofit. The Food Hub’s goal is to get local, farm-fresh veggies to consumers while simultaneously serving as an aggregation site for small growers and distributors.

From left: Gini Bell, Executive Director of Farmer Foodshare and Peter Skillern, Executive Director of Reinvestment Partners and landowner standing in front of the newly renovated “Bull City Cool Food Hub at 902 Mangum in Durham. (Photo by John West from bizjournals.com)

Gini Bell, Executive Director of Farmer Foodshare and Peter Skillern, Executive Director of Reinvestment Partners and landowner standing in front of the newly renovated “Bull City Cool Food Hub” (Photo by John West from bizjournals.com)

“It’s going to revitalize the neighborhood,” Skillern told Triangle Business Journal. “It’s going to help local farmers. It’s going to feed hungry people.”

With three amazing organizations all under one roof working to strengthen the local food system, how can great things not happen on this block! IFFS is so excited to continue our hunger-fighting work in the Durham community as part of this exciting project – and has wasted no time moving in.

Feeding, Teaching, Growing in a New Exciting Location

IFFS joins the Bull City Cool Food Hub by relocating two existing Durham programs. The Durham BackPack Buddies operation is moving from the Northgate Mall, to join Farmer Foodshare and Bella Bean Organics in the sun-lit Bull City Cool warehouse on 902 Mangum Street. Just half a block down the road – at 110 Geer Street – is a growing space that will house the Agricultural Training programs transferring from Langley Community Garden.

Students volunteering to clear the summer cover crop in the new IFFS growing space located at Bull City Cool!

Summer Youth Service Program volunteers clear the summer cover crop in IFFS’ new growing space at Bull City Cool

IFFS Durham Food Security Coordinator Eliza Bordley has been overseeing the logistics of IFFS joining Bull City Cool. She is looking forward to working with her Urban Ag interns to turn the new, larger green space into an urban farm – supported by the accessible resources in the warehouse. Thanks to the efforts of several hard-working volunteers, the groundwork for the new urban farm has already started!

“Now we can grow, store, and distribute all within one city block,” Bordley said. “We’ve never had that before in Durham and I think that’s exciting. Being able to walk from the garden to cold storage, and then from cold storage to distribution site is huge.”

From left: IFFS' Eliza Bordley, Darrly Hubbard (Executive Director of Sunrise Recovery Resource Center), and IFFS' Jenny Jolly

From left: IFFS’ Eliza Bordley, Darrly Hubbard (Executive Director of Sunrise Recovery Resource Center), and IFFS’ Jenny Jolly

In the past, produce harvested at Langley Community Garden would have to be driven across town to be distributed to recipient agencies, or temporarily stored at safe temperatures at the Northgate Mall space. Now the gardening program can benefit from the close proximity of warehouse amenities such as parking, water, and bathrooms. Furthermore, the food grown by Bordley and her interns will be donated to Sunrise Recovery Resource Center – located just half a block further down Geer Street (at the intersection with N Roxboro Street).

“We now have the amenities and resources necessary to grow on a scale large enough to battle hunger in the Durham community,” said Bordley.

Departing Langley Community Garden

For the past two years, the Langley Community Garden at 1212 Kent Street has been managed by a team of youth urban ag interns, supervised by Bordley.  These students learned skills in everything from leadership development, to marketing produce, to carpentry, to the art of making perfect compost, – all while growing and distributing produce to the Durham community.

Former Langley Garden intern Keo Ksor harvests carrots

Keo Ksor harvests carrots during her 2014 urban agriculture internship at Langley Community Garden

IFFS’ intention with the Langley Community Garden was never to manage it forever. Rather the goal was to empower the Durham Urban Agriculture interns to improve the space and turn it back over to the neighborhood for long term care. At the end of 2015 when the Internship program officially transitions to Bull City Cool, IFFS will hand management of the Langley Community Garden over to the Lyon Park Neighborhood Association.

The Langley Community Garden will continue growing produce and recruiting volunteers, while the Bull City Cool garden engages additional volunteers in the neighborhoods east of downtown.  With a network of growing spaces across downtown and the additional cold storage and processing at Bull City Cool, even more produce will be grown and distributed than in years prior!

Although the Urban Agriculture Internship program is changing venues, IFFS is maintaining ties with the Lyon Park and West End neighborhoods. Students form those communities will still be recruited for our internships through the mentoring program Partners for Youth Opportunity. All these positive changes will allow IFFS to increase food security initiatives in east Durham while engaging the community every step of the way.

Looking for ways to get involved? Take action! Visit our volunteer page to get started with BackPack Buddies or Urban Ag projects at Bull City Cool.
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UPDATE: On September 10, the Durham community gathered for a wonderful grand opening of the Bull City Cool Food Hub!

IFFS celebrated the grand opening of Bull City Cool last week. The new Food Hub means big opportunities for our #Durham Feeding, Teaching, and Growing programs: http://bit.ly/1gms50d

Posted by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle on Thursday, September 17, 2015

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By Jenni Jolly, Durham Food Security VISTA; Eliza Bordley, Durham Food Security Coordinator (Eliza@FoodShuttle.org); and Lindsay Humbert, Digital Media Specialist (Lindsay@FoodShuttle.org)

 




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