The recent popularity of the farm-to-table movement is bringing greater interest to the concept of community gardening, and LSU AgCenter agents are seeing more people with interest in producing their own food or at least obtaining it from local sources.
David Young, a former police chief in Indiana and founder of Capstone, a nonprofit organization in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, began a number of urban gardens in 2010.
“I came to the city to help in the rebuilding effort but discovered that there was a greater need than just a physical house,” Young said.
Through the organization, he began acquiring vacant lots and planting small gardens. Since then, he has developed more than 20 plots in the city along with two acres in Plaquemines Parish. His goal is to grow food that can be shared with people in the community.
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Lee Rouse called Young “one of my favorite urban gardeners. David is someone that I’ve worked very closely with on a number of projects.”
The local food movement has been slow to catch on in northeast Louisiana, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Kerry Heafner, of Monroe.
“Urban gardens are a good idea, but what I’ve found is that once people realize you have to get out in our summer heat and work, it tends to fall by the wayside,” Heafner said.
Shreveport Master Gardener Tina Kendrick is involved in the community gardening effort in her area because it has been a way to help the community. “Farm‐to‐table appeals to many people in urban areas because people want to get involved,” she said. “And the work we’re doing helps people across all spectrums of the community.”
In northwest Louisiana, the Red River Coalition of Community Gardeners (RRCCG), a nonprofit organization whose members promote education about good nutrition and health, is at the forefront of urban gardening.
Working in cooperation with the AgCenter, the group’s mission is to create and maintain community gardens in the Shreveport‐Bossier area, said Grace Peterson, AgCenter nutrition agent in Bossier Parish.
“Using sustainable practices, we grow healthy food, provide education for healthy lifestyles and empower people to share their unique contributions,” Peterson said. RRCCG is part of the We Grow Together! Coalition, a group that works with the AgCenter and the City of Shreveport to develop neighborhood food hubs to address four major barriers to access to nutritious food:
– Lack of physical access creates areas with no grocery stores that become “food deserts.”
– Lack of financial access means the cost of nutritious food can be prohibitive.
– Lack of knowledge about how to make healthful food choices.
– Lack of knowledge about how to prepare food in a nutritious way.
The RRCCG, guided by AgCenter faculty, is offering garden‐based nutrition education to the residents of the neighborhood and surrounding community.
The food hub also serves as a training site for volunteers from other low‐income neighborhoods to learn the skills necessary to offer garden‐based nutrition education programs in their communities. RRCCG received grant funds from the City of Shreveport Department of Community Development to pay for the installation of an urban garden on the site.
Johnny Morgan is a communications specialist in LSU AgCenter Communications.
Kale, purple cabbage and other cole crops grow in the Capstone community garden at the corner of Derbigny and Deslonde streets in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans on Feb. 24. David Young, founder of Capstone, maintains gardens on 20 lots, most of them in New Orleans. His focus is on the Lower 9th Ward, which is divided from the Upper 9th Ward by the bridge over the Industrial Canal, seen in the background. Photo by Olivia McClure