The History of SEEDS

Durham community leader Brenda Brodie had a vision of transforming neighborhoods and lives through gardening, and in 1994 she co-founded South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces, Inc (SEEDS) with Annice Kenan. A two-acre plot in Northeast Central Durham, SEEDS’ current home at Gilbert and Elizabeth Streets, was rented for $1 per year. This site was originally selected because of its size and proximity to organizations serving the homeless.

SEEDS’ first partnership was with Phoenix House, a transitional program for homeless men. This group, along with many volunteers, cleared the barren plot and planted the first SEEDS garden. SEEDS diversified its services by establishing Community Harvest, which was designed to support neighborhoods in their efforts to turn vacant lots into productive, community-controlled spaces. With additional help from Americorps VISTA volunteers, the Community Harvest program grew to include seven community gardens and a few school-based gardens. SEEDS and other interested participants were able to increase access to locally-grown, organic produce to non-gardeners by supporting the creation of a permanent farmers’ market in the spring of 2000. Today the Durham Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday and is located under a permanent pavilion in Durham Central Park.

Meanwhile, the SEEDS plot was transformed into a multi-use garden that includes community gardening plots, an outdoor classroom, a greenhouse, environmental education exhibits and a display of ornamental and edible plants.

Over the years, SEEDS has grown and developed to meet the changing needs of the community, particularly by adding programs for children and youth. In early 2000, SEEDS created a program called DIG (Durham Inner-city Gardeners). DIG was a youth-driven entrepreneurial business in which teenagers grow produce, herbs and flowers to sell at the Durham Farmers’ Market. DIG is now a youth-driven, urban farming and leadership development program. In 2003, SEEDS responded to a need identified by the Durham Family Initiative and created the SEEDlings After-School program to serve children in 1st through 5th grades.

Since the beginning, volunteers have fueled SEEDS’ development and expansion. Volunteers have helped to build raised beds for community gardeners, add compost bins, tutor children in SEEDlings, and work side-by-side with teenagers harvesting organic produce.

Throughout our 27-year history, a deep respect for life, the earth, and one other has remained at the heart of SEEDS. Now, as we look forward, we’re focused on further fostering that respect while growing the potential of youth in Durham.

We believe in the power and ability of our youth to grow – mentally, educationally, and socially – into transformational leaders of tomorrow. And every day, we see first-hand that our beautiful, two-acre oasis in the heart of Durham is an ideal space to nurture this transformation.