From farm to school
Community gardens are springing up all over New Orleans
Parkway Partners, a nonprofit agency, coordinates community gardens and urban farms in New Orleans, providing everything from advice and liability insurance to free seeds.
Is there a community garden in your neighborhood? Click here to view the list.
“Access to food is important, but our primary mission is green spaces,” said general manager Jean Fahr. “So the standards are pretty high” to start and maintain a community garden.
Community gardening took off in New Orleans in the 1980s, Fahr said, but back then gardens were mostly on lots that had been seized for unpaid taxes. “If a developer or someone comes in and pays the taxes, the garden disappears,” she said.
Today lots are mostly privately owned and lent or rented to gardens and farms. “We are able to negotiate longer term leases,” she said, “so the gardens are more stable than before the storm. We have a head gardener in each garden.”
In a Q&A email, Fahr and Susannah Burley, program director at Parkway Partners, shared tips for getting involved in community gardening.
How do I join a community garden?
Consult the map of urban gardens on our website and find a garden closest to you. Then email [email protected] to be connected to a garden’s lead gardener and find out if a plot is available.
What does it take to get a plot? Do you have to pay?
Each garden is autonomous and therefore has different rules determined by its community and generally requires the signing of an agreement, which clarifies the roles of the producers. Almost all gardens have dues, which help pay for water usage and other garden costs.
What are your obligations as a community gardener?
This is also determined by each garden and its agreement. Some require you to tend your plot a certain number of times a week or adhere to organic gardening practices. Some require attendance at a community service day each month. It all depends on the garden, its community, its culture and its needs.
Urban farms, on the other hand, are grown for profit and are also called “market gardens”. These are typically grown by one to a few growers who sell to restaurants, farmers’ markets, and other buyers at least five days a week. Urban farms do not have plots available to community gardeners.
What are the benefits of joining a community garden?
The benefits are unlimited. Community gardens connect people to their communities. They are places to grow your own food, exercise and connect children to nature. They make neighborhoods safer by keeping their eyes on the street and, of course, they spruce up land that might otherwise be vacant.
Parkway Partners also works with the New Orleans Recovery Authority; more than 20 lots are now converted into vegetable garden areas for fruit and vegetable development, offering consultation for garden design and garden layout. The program is called “Growing Green” and individuals can rent to become owners while transforming vacant land into productive spaces. The program will start accepting applicants again in August.