Urban Agriculture and Pollinators in Raleigh

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Urban Agriculture and Pollinators in the City’s Strategies Pollinators in Raleigh - BeeCity USA Raleigh Pollinator Projects History of Community Gardens in Raleigh

Urban agriculture is an important part of our City’s ecology. It creates more green space in our communities, it improves food security, and it provides more habitat for our valuable pollinating species. Raleigh promotes community gardens, urban agriculture and pollinator protection all throughout the city, and looks for ways to include every member of our population in these important activities.

Urban Agriculture and Pollinators in the City’s Strategies

The presence of agriculture in the urban environment and pollinators have a positive impact on the natural environment, the local economy, social relations, and household economic behavior, all of which contribute to livability in Raleigh. The City of Raleigh supports these efforts through the Strategic Plan as part of the Safe, Vibrant, Healthy Community Initiatives. These efforts include eliminating barriers to healthy and active lifestyle choices, by identifying opportunities for the City to support urban agriculture, and the applicable recommendations of the Wake County Food Security Plan, and education about the benefits of local, healthy food options.  

In addition, the City also provides grants and free yard waste compost for community gardens. The grants are through the Housing and Neighborhoods Department provides Neighborhood Improvement Funds to encourage and enhance neighborhoods. There are two levels of these grants which range in amount from $250 up to $1,000 for a variety of projects including pollinator habitat, community gardens, urban agriculture and tree planting.

The Environmental Advisory Board also promoted the personal and societal benefits of urban agriculture through some Urban Agriculture Grant as part of their Environmental Awards program. The grants were intended for a community garden or urban agriculture project that benefits a community in Raleigh. In addition, the Environmental Advisory Board hosted a number of Urban Agriculture Days.

The City promotes the creation of Community Gardens by our residents. You can find out more about how to start a community garden in this resource document. Our report on Community Gardens is available here

Pollinators in Raleigh - BeeCity USA

Since June 2017, Raleigh has been an official member of Bee City USA  and is one of more than 100 cities across the nation to officially become a Bee City USA. This is a joint effort between the city and community partners to continue to educate the public and provide support for pollinators and habitats in Raleigh, see our BeeCity 2018 Annual Report of activities in Raleigh. Raleigh has committed to create sustainable habitats for pollinators.  

Pollinators and pollinator habitat help sustain our ecosystem and natural resources. One out of every three bites of our food is made possible by a pollinator species. Protecting pollinator species and habitat is essential to a sustainable food system. The city supports pollinator habitats through grants, community partnerships, as well as pollinator projects. We are committed to raising awareness of the essential role bees and other pollinators play in the complex food web as well as creating and sustaining pollinator habitat in Raleigh.

Raleigh also supports pollinators and pollinator habitats with grants. The Housing and Neighborhoods Department provides Neighborhood Improvement Funds to encourage and enhance neighborhoods. There are two levels of these grants which range in amount from $250 up to $1,000 for a variety of projects including pollinator habitat, community gardens, urban agriculture and tree planting.

A recent report details some of the local activities from the last year. There are also some upcoming events.

Past Pollinator Events

  • September 20 Raleigh Convention Center and Performing Arts Complex
  • Aug. 3  Pollinator Field Day
  • July 25  Science Cafe: Beekeeping in the City
  • July 13  Dix Park Sunflower Field
  • June 18 Pollinator Event at Forest Ridge Park

Raleigh Pollinator Projects

Here are some examples of city pollinator projects:

The city’s Transportation Department has pollinators in mind at Union Station, Raleigh’s new multimodal transit facility in the Downtown Warehouse District. Thanks to a visionary team at the City of Raleigh’s Urban Design Center, the new transit facility includes a pollinator garden. Funded in part by a grant from Burt’s Bees, the Raleigh Union Station Pollinator Garden will “perform as a truly regenerative landscape” coupling low-level remediation to detoxify contaminated rail yard dirt with creating pollinator habitat.  

The Public Utilities Department has been very supportive of pollinators by conducting pilot initiatives and incorporating pollinator habitat into their projects. The Neuse River Resource and Recovery Facility (formally Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant) used to have acres of sunflowers that were processed onsite into biodiesel to fuel the equipment at the facility. The massive sunflower field of pollinator habitat for bees and other species has moved to Dix Park.

The Neuse Facility has agricultural field’s buffer zones planted with species for pollinator and wildlife habitat and fields that are unsuitable for reuse water irrigation and biosolid application that are converted to low-maintenance plant pollinator species. This includes more than sixty acres of various types of clover!

After learning of a recommendation to support pollinators under the Federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, the city’s Public Utilities Department took initiative to support pollinators at a project on Wrenn Road. Here, five city-owned acres of land adjacent to Wrenn Road was planted with white clover to provide pollinator habitat.

The Parks and Recreation and Cultural Resources Department has several initiatives that support pollinator habitat:  native plantings, pollinator gardens, butterfly gardens and outreach and education programs.  The Department has a policy to prioritize the planting of native species and cull invasive species using the NC Native Plant Society list as a guide. This is an effective way to build native wildlife habitat that sustains pollinators. A few examples of places you can find pollinator habitat or programming include: Wilkerson Preserve Park, Durant Nature Preserve, Anderson Point Park, Walnut Creek Wetland Center, and Fred Fletcher Park.

The City has Research Partnerships with NC State University and the State of North Carolina’s Wildlife Resource Commission to determine the most suitable pollinator species for various sites and applications. For example, discussions are ongoing to understand the best species to plant under solar panels that would require no maintenance or cutting and thrive in the shaded area, while providing the added benefit of pollinator habitat.

City Departments continue to evaluate opportunities to host pilot projects and partner with the community to support pollinator species and habitat. There are also numerous community resources dedicated to promoting pollinator habitat. For example, NC State University has pollinator habitat projects around campus and the city.

History of Community Gardens in Raleigh



Cindy Holmes

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