On Sunday, June 1st, the Eat Local Challenge kicked off with the 2nd Annual Urban Farm Bike tour. A collaboration between the NOLA Social Ride and the Eat Local Challenge, Sunday’s event was the first of two tours that are scheduled for the month of June. If you missed this past tour, you can still catch the second one on Sunday, June 29th.
The ride began at 9 a.m. at CRISP Farms (1310 Lesseps St.), near the intersection of St. Claude and Poland. Despite the threat of rain, over 35 dedicated riders showed up for the five garden tour. Zachary George, one of the CRISP Farms leaders and resident of the house on site, gave an informal tour to interested participants. From an edible fruit forest to a hydroponic system, CRISP is both a garden and a practice in permaculture.
Just after 10 a.m., the tour officially started and the ride headed towards the first stop, Mission Utopia (2923 N. Rampart). Mission Utopia is a community garden comprised of nearly a dozen gardeners who each have individual plots and a shared community plot as well. One of the gardeners, Dean Reynolds, was kind enough to explain the history of the garden to participants and respond to questions about various plants. Unfortunately, after over a decade of use, the garden will have to give the land back to the owner and locate a different lot.
After heading out of Mission Utopia, participants ran into a downpour en route to the St. Claude bridge and scattered to find cover under trees and awnings. Thankfully, the rain stopped after five minutes and the ride continued on to the next stop, Sankofa Learning Garden at St. Claude Court. This garden provides most of the produce for their mobile farmers market. Sankofa also has a space outside of the garden where residents can come and pick their own vegetables. Members of Sankofa had strawberries and blueberries set out for participants to enjoy as well as produce for sale from their Mobile Market. Just as participants began to explore the garden, another downpour arrived and 40 people all huddled together beneath Sankofa’s 10×10 pop-up tent. It was the ideal moment to eat a light lunch donated from Carmo along with tomatoes donated by Tomott’s Cajun Farm.
The third farm on the agenda was Our School at Blair Grocery (1740 Benton St.). OSBG operates as an educational farm center, hosting local youth for after-school and summer programs. The farm also sells greens and micro-greens to restaurants and local food grocers. As soon as we rolled onto the farm grounds, leader Nat Turner was quick to engage participants. Before the group had even parked their bikes, he shouted, “Hey all, I need some hands over here!” Several volunteers quickly found a spot for their bikes and followed Turner into a house. They emerged with cardboard boxes filled with leftover bread from local grocery stores.
“Let’s go feed some goats!” Turner led participants to a gated area where the goats resided and instructed the volunteers to place the boxes inside.
Throughout our hour-long visit, Turner encouraged participants to try the kale, arugula, and micro-greens that were growing on the farm. He spoke about the issue of food waste that results from grocers and consumers turning down “ugly” produce that is just as nutritious as “pretty” produce.
After participants saw all the goats, chickens, vegetables, and the large potbelly pig, the tour skirted around pothole-ridden roads to the last stop in the Lower 9: Project Capstone‘s Lamanche Farm (2124 Lamanche St.). The founder of the project, David Young, took a break from tending to one of his 26 lots in New Orleans to open up his garden to us and answer our questions. Project Capstone grows fruits and vegetables for residents who do not have access to fresh food. Lamanche Farm has several beehives, two goats, and many vegetable plots.
The day ended at the starting spot, CRISP Farms, with all-local Nutria Jambalaya and Collard Green Nutria Stew dishes prepared by CRISP Farms. A BIG thanks goes out to all five participating farms, the vendors who donated, and the riders who came!
Do you wish you had come? You’re in luck, there’s another tour planned for the last weekend of the Eat Local Challenge. Details for the next Urban Farm Bike Tour in Algiers:
When: June 29th, Meet-up 11 a.m., departing at 12 p.m. for the 12:30 ferry to Algiers
Where: Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.)
View more details here: http://www.nolalocavore.org/urban-farm-bike-tour/