By Clodagh Bastian
– Raleigh’s Irregardless Café has been a staple on West Morgan Street since 1975. Innovative from its inception, the popular restaurant was the first in town to offer good vegetarian food and nightly live music. It’s now continuing that pioneering tradition with a new farm-to-table project: The Well Fed Community Garden.
Cultivated in 2012, the garden sits on a 1.5-acre plot on Athens Drive and supplies the restaurant with fresh, organically produced food. Its name stems from an old well discovered on the property that now provides irrigation for vegetables, various fruit trees and shrubs, herbs, and flowers. Honey bees and chickens also make the Well Fed Garden their home, providing honey and fresh eggs.
Morgan Malone, an NCSU graduate in Ecology and Agro-Ecology, manages the project. All parts of the operation, from the permaculture plan created by NCSU landscape architects Will Hooker and Laura Willer to compost from the restaurant’s scraps, are designed to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. Organic agricultural methods, hydroponics, and crop rotation are used to grow all the crops.
Much of the garden’s yield flows back into Irregardless’ seasonal dishes, but the space also provides ways for the community to connect. Visitors, classes, volunteers, and interns come to learn about how food is grown and get their hands dirty. Volunteers are also a big part of what keeps the garden growing. Besides learning about various aspects of sustainable food production, helpers get to take some of the harvest home with them to enjoy.
The garden hosts regular volunteer events, such as Volunteer Thursdays and Wine and Weeds as well as community and learning opportunities. From beekeeping classes to dinner in the garden, workshops and events provide a place for interaction with food, land, and neighbors. Be sure to check out the Well Fed Garden’s first Blackberry Festival on the 24th of this month and enjoy the harvest!