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