New Orleans tour features four urban farms

Kenneth Gautreaux  |  12/5/2017 5:24:37 PM

(12/05/17) NEW ORLEANS, La. — In New Orleans, a city known for its food, unused green spaces are being converted to flourishing urban farms.

The New Orleans urban farm tour was organized to demonstrate the importance of urban agriculture in local food systems for economic development in urban areas. The tour of the four gardens was coordinated by Louisiana SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research Education), an extension program administered by the Southern University Ag Center and the LSU AgCenter. The two universities are engaged in this program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Carl Motsenbocker, a horticulturalist in the LSU AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, said the urban farms serve as a local food connection to their communities and is a reminder of how food was produced in the past and the direction modern food systems are heading.

“We’re getting back to the way we used to grow food in backyard gardens, street corner lots. So we’re getting back to market gardening, community gardens and various aspects of commercial agriculture in the city,” Motsenbocker said.

The four farms visited were the VEGGI Farmers Cooperative, Press Street Gardens, Refresh Project and the Grow Dat Youth Farm. Representatives at the gardens said community volunteers are essential to their success.

Elliot Robinson, garden manager for Press Street Gardens, said the garden serves as a school garden for the nearby New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. Students from the school visit it and incorporate lessons from many different subject areas.

Robinson said the tour offered him an opportunity to connect with others involved in urban farm projects.

“I think it is really critical to network with farmers, educators and institutions that promote agriculture in Louisiana,” he said.

Aprille Kent is the chairperson of Victory Gardens, a community garden located in Lafayette, Louisiana. She wanted to see how other gardens work with their communities. She is interested in getting young people involved in gardening, especially school gardens.

“Gardening is such a good way to incorporate so many types of learning; biology, math, really any of the sciences, even English,” Kent said.

While serving as a social and environmental component for their communities, the gardens have provided an economic boost to areas of the city in need of economic development.

“The money that’s generated here, it stays in the community. We’re supporting local businesses. These farmers are business people, so we’re supporting local businesses, farm families and the fabric of our cities,” Motsenbocker said.

Lydia Atkins was on her way back to Alabama and decided to participate in the tour. She previously worked with gardening projects that included an educational component and wanted to see if she could learn new information related to urban farms to take back home.

“We are growers and educators and believe these (urban farms) are solutions to some urban issues. I’m really interested in multi-generational farming. These are places for the public to become engaged in food production,” Atkins said.

Approximately 50 people attended the tour, and many were impressed at the uniqueness of each of the gardens visited.
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Elliot Robinson, farm manager of the Press Street Gardens, explains to a group touring New Orleans urban farms how the Press Street Garden serves the local community. Approximately 50 people attended a tour of four gardens as part of a joint project of the Southern University Ag Center and the LSU AgCenter. Photo by Craig Gautreaux/LSU AgCenter

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Margaret Evans, a lifestyle educator and a family nurse practitioner, pets a goat at the Press Street Gardens. She was one of approximately 50 people touring four urban farms in New Orleans to learn more about the roles of community gardens. Photo by Craig Gautreaux/LSUAgCenter

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