Monday, October 12, 2009
AFJ 2009: New Orleans Food and Farm Network
Your blogger came back from the Association for Food Journalists conference, weighed herself and nearly passed out after seeing she only gained a pound. I've only recently found the energy to post on the conference's final activities. Saturday morning we boarded a bus with Daphne Derven of the New Orleans Food and Farm Network. NOFFN provides tools, gardeners and support for urban farming efforts in the city. Our first stop was at Marilyn Yank's Little Sparrow Farm. Yank works on the garden about six to eight hours a week and has work parties three or four times a year. She sells flowers to local restaurant and food to neighbors when things are in season. Post-Katrina, there are 65,000 vacant lots in New Orleans with some 35,000 undeveloped. The Little Sparrow Garden is bordered with hyacinth peas (see above right), which attract butterflies and other beneficial insects. NOFFN is also working with Covenant House to train 100 at-risk kids for food jobs and they will also help the house start 10 gardens of its own. The group is also working on education programs to certify more growers.
We left Little Sparrow to head to the Hollygrove Market. Unlike the usual CSA model of a hefty upfront payment and membership and core committees, the Market offers food for $25 a box (or bags; pick and bring your own containers). There's a swap table in case someone prefers satsumas to eggplant and other produce and locally made goods for sale at the Market. I tried the pea soup with tasso ham from Vintage Garden Kitchen. The Kitchen employs the developmentally disabled from ARC. You find out more and donate (this is not an AFJ endorsement, just a suggestion from someone who was impressed) at their Website.
There are also seven hens and a pair of contrasting farms at the Market. Kasey Mitchell (pictured above left) farms permaculture style, meaning his farm self-organizes according to nature's dictates. He doesn't mulch (a common practice in the area) and the plants nurture and protect each other.
If Mitchell is right-brain, Morgan Fry (pictured right) is left-brain all the way. He does commercial-style farming on a smaller scale complete with crop rotation, irrigation. From his arugula beds, he can usually get four crops with judicious replanting. Also on site is a tool shed where equipment can be borrowed by master gardeners and others. There is not a problem with theft, Derven says.
-- Claudia Perry, "official" AFJ conference blogger