Farms and Field Trips

I signed up for the Community-Based Environmental Management (CBEM) course this fall kind of on a whim. I knew there was a CBEM certificate offered, but I really just wanted a change from the heavy natural sciences course load I recently escaped in undergrad. Well, here we are in October selecting spring classes and I find myself pursuing this awesome certificate. What really won me over however was our field trip exploring alternative food systems here in Durham.

The day began with me grumpily waking up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday for class, but that mood soon abated. Our first stop of the day was at the Durham Farmers Market. The market started operations in 1999 with a few farmers and crafters and has now expanded to over 65 vendors. The goal of the market is to provide fresh food and other goods while boosting small organizations up to encourage a prosperous and participatory local economy. Part of our assignment granted us the opportunity to interview vendors, patrons and even the market manager. I am now a Saturday morning regular at the market and am on a first-name basis with the empanada food truck guys.

Our next stop a few blocks away was Darko Urban Farm for an interview with owner Rochelle Sparko. She and her partner run this family farm with permaculture principles in mind. The end goal is a closed system that allows reliance on plants and animals to make what the garden needs instead of bringing in tons of mulch and compost every year. Sparko is policy director at the nonprofit Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and works to advocate for fair farm and food policy. She aims to establish a functional framework for family farms and create education opportunities for communities to learn about growing local, organic produce. It blew my mind that someone could grow all the produce they needed right in the middle of Durham. Though I can’t even keep succulents alive, I am inspired to start a small garden come spring.

The last stop of the day was a little different from the first two. Fullsteam Brewery doesn’t grow its own ingredients, but it does for the most part purchase them locally, going from plow to pint. Fullsteam brews uniquely Southern beer that promotes a positive agricultural economy in a state that once almost wholly relied on tobacco farming. In addition to hosting one of the best trivia nights in town, it offers space for local organizations to use for such purposes as yoga and business meetings. Waking up at 8 a.m. had fully paid off as we got a behind-the-scenes tour and a few rounds of samples. It has easily become one of my main haunts and winning trivia is in the near future, mark my words.

I can confidently say the CBEM course has helped me find a path here at the Nicholas School. There is so much good going on in Durham that I never would have known about if it wasn’t for this class. There are also some really exciting courses that can count towards the CBEM certificate like Collective Action, Environment, and Development, Community-Based Marine Conservation in the Gulf of California, and Sojourn in Singapore: Urban Tropical Ecology. This post only scratches the surface of what is available with the CBEM certificate. Visit their website for more information!

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