Celebrate Black History Month at Catawba Trail Farm

February 16, 2024

Are you looking for a great local celebration of Black History to attend? Urban Community AgriNomics (UCAN) is hosting a special Black History Month event at Catawba Trail Farm in Durham on Saturday, February 24th from 11 am to 2 pm. An open house for visitors to tour the gardens, trails, and historic structures, this celebration honors the rich African American history embedded in the land. Activities include a special African Drumming Performance by Johnny Roots, a performance by TAVE (The Ancestors Voice Ensemble), and a memorable time capsule burial ceremony. 

UCAN founders, Delphine Sellars and Lucille Patterson recently made history after TLC deeded the land to UCAN in January 2024. This historic transfer is one of the largest transfers of land-conservancy property to a Black-led nonprofit in the state. 

“Imagine waking up to find that your greatest dream has come true. That’s what ownership of the Catawba Trail Farm means to me and UCAN,” said Delphine Sellars, Executive Director of UCAN. 

TLC Staff with UCAN founders. Left to right: Margaret Sands, Lucille Patterson, Delphine Sellars, Kierra Hyman, and Sandy Sweitzer. Photo: Cara Lewis

Breaking ground in 2018, Delphine Sellars, her Board, donors, and volunteers have transformed the now former TLC property (once referred to as Snow Hill IV) in northern Durham into a thriving community farm. TLC bought the property in 2008 from a developer due to its proximity to the Little River and because of the land’s vibrant wildlife habitat. Prior to Delphine and UCAN’s vision, the property was overgrown with woods and unsuitable for farming and food production.  

MLK Day of Service volunteers gathered around the grave of William Johnston, the first white owner of the land. Photo: Cara Lewis

The land also came with a deep history, including being owned by the Cameron family, the largest slave owning family in North Carolina. Reminders of the land’s past can be seen in the historic infrastructure and in the grave site of William Johnston, the first white landowner who acquired the property in 1763.  

Today, UCAN has reclaimed this land through the incredible community work they continue to do. Catawba Trail Farm is an important center of community, serving as a hub for fresh produce for those in need. UCAN also works with low-income communities and local schools to teach healthy food preparation, preservation, and life skills that encourage academic and career success.  

Visitors to the once dilapidated farm can now walk along trails, volunteer in the garden, and connect with sustainable agriculture through engaging events and classes. 

Catawba Trail Farm is a hub for fresh produce in north Durham. Photo courtesy of UCAN

Can’t make next Saturday’s event, but still want to get involved? UCAN hosts weekly and monthly events for diverse groups of volunteers and community members. Their latest program, BUILDBLACK, tackles the revitalization of infrastructure on the land that once held the legacy of enslaved people. Skilled workers from diverse backgrounds are invited to lend a hand in repurposing these spaces and shape a more inclusive and equitable future. 

More information about UCAN can be found at their website http://ucan.today  

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