Delphine Godly Sellars / Urban Community AgriNomics (UCAN) / Durham NC

Updated: May 3




Hello Faithful Reader,

I hope this month’s edition of the Black Birdseye View finds you well and in good spirit. I am well. This month I delved into a topic that I find myself gravitating towards when I look at the current state of programming that exists, as it relates to the way the masses has been trained to be dependent upon a system they have little to no control of.

Think about it:

  • The average person pays an electric bill so that they can turn on their lights and use their appliances.

  • Most people pay either an electric bill or a gas bill to be able to heat their home and water.

  • Now a days the average person purchases water at their local grocery store because of the fear that the tap water is contaminated.

  • The parking lot at the grocery stores are packed with cars that transport food that is hand selected from the various isles of the grocery store, food that is prepackaged and preserved for maximum shelf life….not good health.

The common denominator in the above is that someone else is controlling what the masses eat, how they live, and it appears to be driven by the all mighty dollar.

I am firm believer that in order to fix a thing that is broken we must start somewhere. This month I have the pleasure of introducing you to yet another NC Pioneer…one of the Founders of Urban Community AgriNomics (UCAN), Delphine Godley Sellars. UCAN is a 501(c)3 nonprofit located in Durham NC that was founded April 29th, 2016 by sisters, Delphine Godly Sellars and Lucille Godley Patterson. The mission UCAN is to improve health and wellness through programs that provide education as it relates to”

  • Healthy lifestyles

  • Seed-to-table food preparation

  • Preservation of food

  • Hands-on STEM and agricultural skills.

By providing a place with access to fresh fruit and vegetables, UCAN empowers Durham families with access to resources to grow their own healthy food using sustainable practices in a supportive environment to instill in them skills based in agriculture

When speaking with Mrs. Sellars, it was clear that her background is steep in humanitarian acts. It is her nature to provide what is lacking in individuals.

I took the time to pick her mind to gather a better understanding of what prompted the emergence of UCAN in Durham NC. Sit back and get to know Delphine Godley Sellars:

Q.

How did UCAN begin?

A.

UCAN stated out as a conservation property with direct effects on the water system, so there was a limit to what could be grown. We cleared the land and decided that the best way to engage with the community was to grow a community garden. So, with the help of the community we created that garden and what remains is a minority founded, led and managed organization called UCAN

Q.

Do you consider yourself a farmer?

A.

Yes. I grew up Eastern NC and was raised on a vegetable farm. Farming was a way of life. I have always worked in fields that empowered people to be better and do better….from being a food stamp worker at social service to being the Director of Adult Education System to being the Director of Durham County Cooperative Extension to being employed by Agriculture Department to Work First. I have done a lot in my 66 years and have come full circle.

Q.

How big is the farm (UCAN)?

A.

We are currently utilizing 12 of the 53 acres we have at our disposal.

Q

Who does the UCAN team consist of?

A.

There are 7 working Board Members and a host of volunteers who come and go, as well as 21 plot owners who are active in maintaining and growing fruit and vegetables. We have 50 plots all together.

Q.

What is a plot?

A.

There are many people who are interested in growing their own food and vegetables but lack the space to do so. UCAN builds individual “raised garden beds” (5ftx8ft wooden box in which soil is enclosed within the box…for the purpose of planting)

Q

What do people do with the raised garden beds?

A.

They treat it like their very own garden. The environment at UCAN is one of teaching and nurturing. We provide the information and tools that are necessary for each of our plot renters to be able to understand the process of growing food with the use of organic pesticides from start to finish…. from the plating of the seed to learning how to cook the food that is grown. In essence, we teach them how to grow, preserve, can, and cook natural vegetables.

Q.

It sounds like a big happy family. How many plot renters are currently growing at UCAN?

A.

21 of our 50 plots are currently being utilized

Q

How does a person go about obtaining a plot to grow their food at UCAN?

A.

They can call us directly to set it up. We have a few options available…depending on the individuals needs and/or time constraints.

· One plan is designed for individuals who are more hands on and want to experience the process of growing their own food from panting to harvesting to cooking.

· Another plan is for the individual who would rather the staff at UCAN plant, maintain, harvest, and deliver their food year-round.

· Then we have a plan where individuals may “Adopt A Bed” to give away.

Q.

What happens to the food that UCAN grows?

A.

UCAN has donated over 300lbs of fresh vegetables and fruits, participated in local harvesting and gleaning events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrews. Some of the food is sold and some is donated to groups and food pantries

Q.

What is important about UCAN?

A.

· UCAN create opportunities for all people to have equal access to fresh produce and the knowledge of how to grow it themselves.

· UCAN encourages and demonstrates through being an example of how to honor and respect the environment.

· UCAN educates individuals in how to create gardens; especially for communities that have limited green spaces.

· UCAN cultivates safe community spaces where residents come together to build relationships around agriculture.

· UCAN collaborates long term relationships based on trust and inclusion.

Q.

What is the name of the farm and how was it derived?

A.

The farm is called Catawba Trail, named for the Catawba Indians because an Indian trading path runs through the property. Catawba Trail was also a part of a 5000-acre slave plantation that once existed in Durham, NC. We are currently restoring old buildings on the property for futures tours to inform Durham residents about the history of the property.

Q.

What is the most important aspect of growing our own food?

A.

A lot of health issues can be eradicated if we eat healthy.

Q

What does UCAN Grow

A.

Any and everything. In NC we are blessed to grow all four seasons. (peas, greens, tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, sweep potatoes, cucumber, bok choy, cabbage, eggplant okra, oregano Basel sage, parsley…)

Q.

What is UCAN’s 5-year outlook

A.

We aim to create a sustaining agriculture educational center, build orchids, clear 1-2 acres of land to do traditional farming, build chicken coops, and create a wind tunnel to aid in the year-round process of growing.

Q.

Tell me something that the average person does not know about UCAN.

A.

We sell firewood and quite a bit of it.

Q.

What is UCAN’s core belief?

A.

All things originate from the earth and it is up to s to use it correctly.

Q.

What is in the (near) future for UCAN?

A.

This fall the Conservation Corps North Carolina will bring a crew to work with UCAN in the creation and restoration of the Catawba Trail Farm (Catawba Trail Farm.) They will be hiring for a number of temporary positions. Those interested should visit our website for more details and a link to apply.

Q.

Here is a question I ask all the people I interview…there is no correct or incorrect answer…no question is too long or too short. If you were placed in a position where you could bestow three jewels upon the masses, that is, you could tell the entire world three things that would better mankind…what three things would you share?

A.

1. Your existence is dependent on my existence…we are all connected. For you to succeed I need to succeed.

2. It’s ok to be different and have your own ideas… it’s ok not to conform. When you do that you lose yourself…the most important thing to you.

3. Love conquers all….anger sadness, heart aches. Love begins with self.

As you can see there is a wealth of information and skills to be gained at UCAN. I took the time to reach out to Co-Founder, Lucille Godley Patterson to include her thoughts on the subject off all things UCAN. She had this to say”

“Growing up on a farm we were always in survival mode…but we were never hungry. It’s funny how you view things when you are young. I remember going off to school just to get off the farm. I studied Early Childhood Education with a concentration on Mental Retardation. Later I got married and went to work for a company helping people with special needs…I did a stint in corporate America and ended up working for Parks and Recreations.

I remember suggesting that we plant flowers or food and was met with the notion that a lot of people view gardening as work. I ultimately planted some seeds…started with 4 raised beds and went to 22. From that garden stemmed a 90 bed raise garden.

Over the course of time it became clear that vegetables were changing due to what I believe is cross-pollenization. They were not yielding seeds the way they had in my childhood. The colors and shelf life were different too.

My Sister and I had a vision for a garden that brought people back to the understanding that there will come a day when we will have to go back to our roots…and that we need to be in control of what we put in our bodies. It is necessary that people not view gardening as work, but as a way to be self-sustaining and without the dependence of outside sources that may care more about their bottom line than the health of the masses…..and from that vision came UCAN

We save seeds that we grow. We teach people, especially young people how to grow and what to grow and when to grow …and that it is ok to get your hands dirty and to break a sweat.

The three things I would share with the masses to better mankind would be:

  1. Each one teach one... learn from the past.

  2. Sharing is caring

  3. It takes a village….support is crucial.”

This concludes my most informative interview.

Until Next Time,

Be well,

Always, Robin



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