Over 25 participants braved the heat of the summer on Sunday, June 29, to attend an urban farm bike ride adventure to the Westbank. Riders began meeting up for the ride at the Zeitgeist (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd) at 11 a.m. and departed at noon to make the 12:30 p.m. ferry across the river to Algiers.
The first of the three gardens the group toured was the Federal City Community Garden (400 Guadalcanal St.). Garden members were kind enough to provide refreshing flavored water, tomatoes, and non-alcoholic mojitos to participants.
The Federal City Community Garden was established about a year ago at the former decommissioned Navy base in Algiers. Master gardener Cynthia Metcalf would pass by the abandoned, decrepit tennis courts nearly everyday which she called an “eyesore.” With 2,000 residents in Federal City who had nowhere to garden, she began to think about the possibility of utilizing the space for gardening. While some folks thought her idea was out there, she went for it. With a Home Depot grant and a donation from the Master Gardeners of Lousiana, she was able to obtain cinder blocks and soil for the garden.
Today, the garden has 23 growers. Half of the garden beds are occupied by military families and the other half by Westbank residents. Two of the beds are owned by the military school and police.
“It’s been great for the community,” said Metcalf. “It’s really brought people together.”
As participants explored the many garden beds, entire families were at the garden for the event to show off their hard work. Huge bushes of basil and flowers filled a few beds to the brim, while other garden beds had flowering okra plants and various hot peppers growing. This year, they are trying to grow their own popcorn.
“I’ve heard growing your own can be compared to the difference between Hershey’s and Godiva chocolate,” explained Metcalf with a chuckle.
For only $20 a year, you can lease a garden bed, which includes all plants and seeds in the price. Metcalf was proud to note that the garden is growing “too much food!” Her motto is, “grow food, not lawns.”
The next stop on the tour was the Magellan Street Garden (3320 Magellan Street, Algiers). Lead gardener Tony Lee welcomed participants with a big smile as they parked their bicycles in the designated “Bike Parking” area across the street.
“I almost didn’t want to host you all because I wanted to join the bike tour myself,” said Lee with a chuckle.
Raw vegan chef Dominique Bachemin was on-site preparing green smoothies with various produce including mustard greens, kale, dates, mint, and banana.
Participants in the tour were fortunate to have LaFiets, a custom-built beverage bicycle, join them along for the ride. LaFiets provided riders with free lemonade and ice tea, and they also captured a time lapse video of the entire event.
The third stop on the tour brought riders into Algiers Point, at Algiers-Behrman Community Garden (615 Opelousas Ave.). The gardeners set out watermelon for participants to enjoy as they wandered past the chickens, garden beds, and vertical growing set-ups. A few of the gardeners who have plots came out in the hot heat to chat with everyone, although they normally operate on such different schedules they rarely ever see each other. One gardener tends to the chickens while another manages empty plots.
With the ferry just a short ride away, riders quickly headed over to the terminal to catch the 4:45 p.m. ferry in time. The ride ended at the Eat Local Challenge finale party at Pistil & Stamen Flower Farm and Studio (1226 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd). Participants and Eat Local Challengers feasted on grilled shrimp and squid, raccoon po-boys, local cocktails, and rosemary ice cream.
Everyone who attended the ride had a blast – many thanks go out to all of the gardens that were involved, the Eat Local Challenge, LaFiets, and the NOLA Social Ride. For further information about the gardens and the people behind them, view the article below: