Jun 292016
 

Every year I look forward to planning the urban farm bike rides for the Eat Local Challenge. There are so many enthusiastic growers in this city, and they are happy to show off their hard work to our participants—even in the June heat (although someone usually grumbles about how their garden “isn’t looking great because it’s June”). And each year, there are new farms and gardens that pop up and are brimming with growth. This year, however, things didn’t go quite according to plan. We made a difficult decision and canceled the bike ride on June 4th due to predicted severe weather. The following day, the storm missed us. Thankfully, most of the farms were available and were so kind to accommodate us and we were able to reschedule for the following Saturday.

The ride began at the Eat Local Challenge headquarters, the Zeitgeist in Central City. Everyone started meeting up around 10 am, and over 30 cyclists took off at 10:30 and headed towards Agrowtopia.

Start at Zeitgeist

Agrowtopia is located on the Xavier University campus in Gert Town. The farm was founded by Xavier students to provide fresh, affordable produce to students, staff, local residents, and the general public. Agrowtopia farmers spoke about the challenges they faced with their shallow beds and soil quality. During the school year, students help them with farm tasks. Agrowtopia has an online store that is updated every Monday afternooon. Customers can select their purchases and arrange a pickup time. The university farm also sells their produce to several restaurants.

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even a dog came

The bike ride had a four-legged participant this year!

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An entire bed of mint

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Participants gather to listen to Agrowtopia farmers

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rescue dog enjoys view

The second stop was at First Grace Community Garden in Mid-City. First Grace is part of First Grace United Methodist Church. Community garden members do not need to be a part of the church to have a plot in the garden.

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The gardens were filled with a variety of stunning flowers

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Purple kale

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For the third stop, the ride breezed on down the new Lafitte Greenway to the Refresh Community Farm of SPROUT NOLA, which has two garden plots outside of the Whole Foods Market on Broad Street. SPROUT is led by Emily Mickley-Doyle and Faubourg Farms also has a plot on site as well. SPROUT is a teaching farm that has a mission of increasing fresh food access to an area that was previously deemed a food desert. The organization collaborates with the Refresh Project, which is an innovated fresh food hub with several programs that focus on providing affordable and healthy food through community education, training, and events. The farm provides gardening classes for people of all ages, garden plots for community members, farm apprenticeships, as well as a Volunteer for Veggies program. The gardens plant herbs, flowers, and vegetables for community members outside of their fenced gardens. People can harvest the food at any time of the day at no charge. The farm even grows moringa, an incredibly nutritious and resilient plant.

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overlooking sprout garden

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Butternut squash

moringa tree sprout

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The final stop ended at Southbound Gardens‘ greenhouse in Uptown on S. Robertson St., near Napoleon and Claiborne. Farmers Jordan Bantuelle and Ian Willson sold $1 plant starts that they grow in their greenhouse and told everyone a little bit about their gardens and weekly workshop offerings. Southbound also offers several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) options.

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Ian and Jordan team up with a beekeeper and occasionally sell honey at their garden parties

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Farmers Ian Willson and Jordan Bantuelle pose for a photo with participant Brooke Bullock

Slice served up a delicious all local kale salad with beets, goat cheese, and pecans. Thank you Slice for this incredible salad!

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Thank you to everyone who came out to the first urban farm bike ride, and a big thanks goes out to all of the farms who took the time on their Saturday to host us!

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May 162016
 

Why NOLA Farms is thrilled to be involved with the planning process of the urban farm bike rides that the Eat Local Challenge hosts each year, along with volunteers from the NOLA Social Ride. This year will mark our committee’s fourth year of putting on the rides, and will be our sixth and seventh rides in total (each year we do two rides, one at the beginning of June and one at the end, with the exception of last year). Once again, we will be stopping by lots of new farms and gardens for both of the rides, and we are very excited for the rides we have planned for you all!

RIDE #1 – *RESCHEDULED* JUNE 11th (CENTRAL CITY/GERT TOWN/MID-CITY)

Meetup 10:00 AM: Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.)
Depart 10:30 AM

Stop #1 – 11:00 AM: Agrowtopia (1045 S. Genois St.)
Depart 11:30 AM

Stop #2 – 11:45 AM: First Grace Community Garden (3401 Canal St.)
Depart 12:15 PM

Stop #3 – 12:45 PM: ReFresh Community Farm (300 N. Broad St.)
Depart 1:15 PM

End Stop #4 – 1:45 PM: Southbound Gardens (4221 S. Robertson St.)

There will be a light meal at the end, with produce supplied by Hollygrove Farm & Market and food cooked by Slice!

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RIDE #2 – JUNE 25th (MARIGNY/BYWATER/LOWER 9):

9:45 AM: Press Street Gardens (7 Press St.)

Garden Tour at Press Street Gardens Begins at 10:15 AM
Ride Departs 10:45 AM

Stop #1 – 11:15 AM: Owl City Farm
Depart 11:45 AM

Stop #2 – 12:15PM: Garden on Mars
Depart 12:45 PM

Stop #3 – 1:15 PM: Grow On

End Stop #4 – 2:00 PM: Okra Farm (Industrial Ct.)
There will be a party at the end, with a light snack provided. It’s just a short ride from Okra Farm back to Press St.!

As always, we will be passing by and pointing out as many smaller gardens as we can.

Please be prepared, and bring your own supplies! We will have someone driving a truck to carry supplies from stop to stop. Please make sure your bike is in working order, and bring basic repair items such as a tube, pump, wrenches, patch kit, etc. in case of any mechanical issues.

Please note that everyone is individually responsible for safe operation of their bicycles and for following all traffic laws at all times while on public streets. Ample time has been included in the schedule to ensure that everyone can travel at a comfortable pace. Personal safety equipment (helmets and lights) are encouraged. Handouts will be provided at Zeitgeist with a map of all the garden stops, and a live tracker will be posted for anyone that wants to catch up and join at any point!

We look forward to exploring many pockets of local edible flora on our most sustainable, efficient method of travel available: Pedal Power! Come discover a few of our many local urban garden and farms!

Jul 092014
 

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.

Participants gather at the Zeitgeist before the ride

Participants gather at the Zeitgeist before the ride

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Riders wait for the Algiers ferry to arrive

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.

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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.

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Cynthia Metcalf explains the history of the garden to participants

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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.

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Purple and green basil

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Flowering okra plants

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Visitors are invited to join the garden

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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.”

Urban Farm Bike Tour participants pose outside of the Federal City Community Garden

Urban Farm Bike Tour participants pose outside of the Federal City Community Garden

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.

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Lead gardener Tony Lee

Raw vegan chef Dominique Bachemin was on-site preparing green smoothies with various produce including mustard greens, kale, dates, mint, and banana.

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Raw Vegan Chef Dominique Bachemin

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Pineapples growing in one of the beds

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One of two ponds inside the garden

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Raccoon po-boy

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:
http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/features/9559277-171/locavore-bike-tour-pedals-past

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Jun 222014
 

On Saturday, June 14, the Eat Local Challenge hosted a locavore market at the O.C.H. Art Market inside the Zeitgeist in Central City.

The market presented several different vendors. From local soaps, salsas, art, vegetables, and jewelry, it was hard to leave without purchasing something. A string band played for shoppers and provided entertainment for hungry and thirsty customers of The PDR NOLA and Church Alley Coffee Bar. The Eat Local Challenge offered free local jasmine and brown rice and even sold local oranges, yes…in June!

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Local tomatoes, garlic, rice, and oranges were available from the Eat Local Challenge

David Young from the Capstone Project was there to answer questions about his non-profit organization. A new company, Si Se Puede Salsa Co., debuted their tasty salsas and jam at the market. They sold sweet fruit salsa, a spicier tomato salsa, pepper jelly vinaigrette, canned pickles and beans, and various flavors of jam. Cleaver and Co. had canned red beans and rice as well as their homemade beef jerky for sale.  Another vendor sold all vegan baked goods and the New Orleans Community Printshop had shirts and prints for sale.

Amanda of Si Se Puede Salsa Co.

Amanda of Si Se Puede Salsa Co. with their line of products

Dominic d'Eustachio sold vegetables and herbs to support a community garden on Port St.

Dominic d’Eustachio sold vegetables and herbs to support the Port Street Farms community garden

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Jun 172014
 

This past Saturday morning, over 45 people headed to the Eat Local Challenge event in Couterie Forest inside of City Park to learn more about wild edible plants. Botanist Dr. Charles Allen led the group on a two-hour long tour throughout the trails in the park and covered nearly every plant that was sighted.

Dr. Charles Allen

Dr. Charles Allen shares his expertise with participants

The knowledgeable and witty Dr. Allen captivated participants with his detailed descriptions of plants such as Wild Lettuce, Common Ragweed, Dewberry, Common Goldenrod, and Ladies Eardrop Vine. He explained how the seeds of Peppergrass go well with bread and how he cuts the tips of young Blackberry leaves to make tea with them. If you want to make impressive pancakes, Dr. Allen suggests adding Elderberry flowers. For your next meal of red beans and rice, throw in some dried locally foraged Sweet Bay leaves.

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Elderberry flower

Virginia Sweet Bay leaves

 Sweet Bay leaves

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Foragers hike through Couterie Forest to discover another wild edible plant

As Dr. Allen explained the specifics of each plant, participants passed each one around and tasted the edible ones and examined the few non-edible plants. Some folks gathered plants to take home to utilize later. From Dewberry to Duckweed, Dr. Allen answered questions throughout the hike and uncovered some of the mysteries of Southeastern Louisiana forests.

To learn more about wild edible plants, you can find Dr. Allen’s book Edible Plants of the Gulf South on Amazon.

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Jun 112014
 

Why NOLA Farms is presenting a series of local recipes for the Eat Local Challenge throughout the month of June

Are you starting to miss peanut butter? Luckily, pecan butter is really simple to make and just as delicious. You’ll need a food processor or a blender for this recipe. One cup of shelled pecans will produce one cup of pecan butter. I recommend using at least two cups of pecans – I only made one, and of course it is not enough! The fresher the pecans, the better the pecan butter will taste.

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Honey Pecan Butter

Ingredients:
2 cups pecans, shelled
1 tablespoon honey

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans out on a baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until aromatic.

2. After pecans have cooled, place in food processor or blender for 15-20 minutes. When the pecans begin to stick to the sides, start scraping the sides of the processor or blender with a spatula every couple of minutes until pecans become creamy.

3. Place pecan butter in a jar and mix in honey.

Notes: The pecans may not turn out to be as creamy as you are used to, but don’t worry – it will still taste amazing. I suggest adding a little pecan oil to make it smoother.

Jun 032014
 

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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. Continue reading »