RALEIGH: Urban farm blooms in downtown Raleigh - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Urban farm blooms in thriving Person Street Business District

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Raleigh City Farm is a unique space is at the corner of Franklin and Blount streets, within a mile of city-center. Raleigh City Farm is a unique space is at the corner of Franklin and Blount streets, within a mile of city-center.

A hybrid model of a business and non-profit, Raleigh City Farm is an acre tract of land in downtown Raleigh that sells its produce with the goal of one day being self-sustaining.

The unique space is located at the corner of Franklin and Blount streets, within a mile of city-center. It was founded in 2012 on the idea of creating an urban farm that would reduce waste, improve people’s health and "deepen the connection we urbanites have to our own food supply."

"Right now … farmers aren't really recognized as entrepreneurs in the urban environment. They're thought of as community gardeners," Raleigh City Farm CEO Chris Rumbley explained.

But Rumbley hopes to change that perception by offering smaller farming companies to become viable by helping them "sell their product through co-marketing with our brand."

Matt Spitzer and his business partner Chase Werner run one of the two small farm businesses that operates at Raleigh City Farm.

"This is somewhat intensive agriculture, which allows us to farm on less land," said Werner, who co-founded the urban hydroponic lettuce operation Endless Sun Produce. "So it saves space, and in a lot of ways allows us to be a viable business."

Endless Sun's beginnings date back to 2006, but Spitzer and Werner have been running the business full time for six months.

"We both wanted to do this for a long time," Spitzer said. "This is kind of a dream come true for us."

Spitzer said one of the benefits of urban farming is the visibility that comes with being downtown. Adjacent the Raleigh City Farm is the newly revitalized Person Street Market, which is part of the North Person Street Business District that USA Today named one of the top up-and-coming neighborhoods in the United States.

"The ability to have a farm in the city, I think is pretty darn unique," Spitzer said. "The ability to … gain momentum and gain support, and have other businesses know that we're here, it makes it a little easier on us as far as getting our name out there and getting our kind of mission out there as well."

Unlike a free community garden, Raleigh City Farm sells the produce it grows with the goal of one day become self-sustaining. Among its most frequent customers are some of the area's top restaurant chefs, including Jason Smith from 18 Seaboard, Garland's Cheetie Kumar, Capital Club 16's Jake Wolf and Sean Fowler of Mandolin.

James Beard Award winner Ashley Christensen also buys produce from the farm for her restaurants Poole's Diner and Joule Coffee.

"Local chefs have really seen the value in local food and they can pass that along to their customers to get really excellent food on their plate," General Manager Ryan Finch said.

Finch explained that one of many aspect of the urban farm that appeals to people is their interaction with the farmers that grow the food they put in their mouths.

"A lot of people like coming here because they can meet the farmers," Finch said. "They can engage with them in the process, they cans see how something grows [and] they are more familiar with what's in season."

In addition to becoming self-sustaining, Raleigh City Farm hopes to play a vital role in a planned farmers market in downtown Raleigh.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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