i-Three Issue Corps 2016 – Watering A Food Desert: Partnership Improves Water Quality and Establishes Community Learning Garden Downtown

Mitch Woodward

Area Spec Agent – Water Quality

North Carolina State University, Extension Bio & Agricultural Engineering


What is the change you are designing to achieve?

Short Term – Improve water quality
Longer Term – Improved access to healthy food in food desert areas

How will you measure that change?

Water volume captured / infiltrated.
Food produced / consumed.

What is the innovative component or strategy you will implement as a result of the design-a-thon?

Research-based innovative stormwater control measures combined with irrigation water supply for community gardens.

How did the design-a-thon help you?

Better design of program / identification of partners


Public interest in community / urban gardens and local foods continues to expand. Urban food desert areas offering few healthy food choices to local residents . Additionally, urban stormwater runoff contributes significant pollution to drinking water supplies. Cooperative Extension teamed up with Food Security Coordinators and Master Gardeners to establish a learning garden and stormwater control demonstration site irrigated by stormwater collected off a downtown rooftop. The Camden Street Learning Garden is a vibrant green space full of fresh local produce, grown by the community that surrounds the garden. Over forty gardeners growing in 36 raised beds and we also are in the process of establishing a small food forest which will feature various fruit trees, bushes and medicinal and culinary herbs. The garden is irrigated with a rain harvesting system that can collect over 50,000 gallons of rainfall annually, reducing stormwater flows to area stream and the Neuse River. Cooking, nutrition and gardening classes are being held onsite teaching kitchen and classroom. Composting and recycling education and research on site will also be added soon!

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