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Youth Farms Keep New Orleans Teens in School Gardens

Smack in the middle of a half-dozen shipping containers and striding up a mound of gravel, Johanna Gilligan, 31, can’t contain her excitement. “This looks so awesome!” She nods her head at an alcove between two containers, painted the pale color of new celery, with dry sinks attached. “That’s going to be for processing.”

Gilligan, co-director of New Orleans’ Grow Dat Youth Farm, traipses up the mound, which terminates at a deck of sorts and more containers, crowded with architectural students from Tulane University and local urban farm experts. Beyond the deck sits a bayou, lined with trees weeping Spanish moss into the water; the I-610 freeway buzzes along in the background. “I can’t believe how much is done! My office is going to be in a treehouse!”

She has reason to be excited. At four acres, the buildings’ site is just a sliver of City Park, 1,300 acres of green space on New Orleans’ north side. But come February, the buildings will be done, the beds will be ready for planting, and the second class of Grow Dat farmers will commence their work. The goal: one acre planted, 10,000 pounds of food grown, 20 jobs for student workers. Read more

In the Lower Ninth Ward, Rebuilding a Community Starting with the Soil

Community is at the center of the good food revolution, and the Lower Ninth Ward section of New Orleans is home to one of the more extreme examples. Five years after Hurricane Katrina broke the levees–flooding the neighborhood and forcing its residents to decamp elsewhere–the area, largely frozen in time, has become home to a thriving community of urban farmers aiming to improve the quality of life of its residents. Read more

A Hearty Stew of Contradictions: Community Food Security Conference Gumbo

The theme of the 14th annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference (CFSC) was “The Gumbo That Unites Us All.”   I expected good food at the conference, especially in such a group of enlightened eaters. With sessions such as “Building Community through Food Security” and “Growing Abundance: Restoring Neighborhood Connections to Healthy Food” I knew I was in good hands. But I write about contradictions in the good food movement, so I trekked to New Orleans to attend the mother ship of food justice events to see if any contradictions would be revealed. Read more

NOLA Heros: The White Boot Brigade

“Friends don’t let friends eat imported shrimp.” As a homegrown New Orleanian who grew up on a steady diet of the freshest, local seafood from the nearby waters of Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico, this has long been my mantra.

The culinary culture of New Orleans has become increasingly threatened by the flood of cheap, imported shrimp. Yes, even here it’s necessary to ask where the shrimp came from, despite the fact that we are blessed with two shrimp seasons making freshly caught shrimp available virtually year round. Read more