Below is student Atara Jaffe’s reflection and experiences at the incredible Hollygrove Market and Farm in MidCity!
Old New Orleans Has A Farm
Working at Hollygrove Market & Farm is no ordinary internship. In fact the place is no ordinary organization. This morning I awoke with the bright sunlight and a small chill in the air. I hopped on my beaten down bike and headed toward MidCity. Although the buildings decrease in aesthetics on the way, my excitement increases. Hollygrove Market & Farm is perhaps one of my new favorite places in New Orleans.
Upon entering the gates, the Farm itself doesn’t look like much. There is a bright orange building surrounded by a mess of potted plants. But upon closer look, this place is a paradise. On the right side of the farm are neatly planted rows of arugula and other greens. Next to these plots are large spaces for blackberries and grapevines that dangle and twist and are neighbors to other random plants that are flourishing and blooming, especially this time of year. The other half of the farm consists of the gardens plots and is a crazy splash of color. Different flowers of beans, dill, and broccoli are just some of the brightly colored flowers that are in bloom and give the whole area an untamed jungle sort of look.
Hollygrove Market & Farm serves more than just one purpose. It is a non-profit, community-owned urban micro-farm, local CSA-style (Community Supported Agriculture) produce market, education center, and community garden space located in the heart of New Orleans. Their mission is to, “increase accessibility of fresh produce to Hollygrove, surrounding underserved neighborhoods, and all of New Orleans while promoting sustainability through support of local farmers and the local economy as well as acting as a demonstration site for environmentally sustainable practices, and promote youth and adult education through tours, workshops, lectures and demonstrations.” This mission is the force that guides this organization to its goals. A good understanding of the mechanics, but also the ethics is what gives Hollygrove Market & Farm its extra charm.
The site broke ground in September 2008, with little money, but thankfully were aided by many partners, such as Carrollton-Hollygrove Community Development Corporation, New Orleans Food & Farm Network, Tulane City Center, Trinity Christian Community, and the Master Gardeners of New Orleans, Grow Dat Youth Farm, Rosa Mary Foundation, City of New Orleans, Organic Gardening Magazine, and Aveeno. With a $33,000 grant from Aveeno and Organic Gardening magazine, the Hollygrove market recently completed a cistern-fed irrigation system, a multi-use shed and an entrance patio created by the Tulane City Center. These generous grants and funding allow Hollygrove M&F to be able to serve its community in an unconventional but significant way.
Hollygrove M&F has a bi-weekly CSA-style (Community Supported Agriculture) market that sells local produce, meat and dairy and a local produce box option. With this, customers can receive a box of local, seasonal items enough to feed two adults for a week. All these products come from either the farm itself or farms within 65 miles of Hollygrove M&F, living up to the expectations of what is local. Aside from selling produce to an average New Orleans resident, Hollygrove M&F also sells their produce to numerous restaurants around the city. As a Farm, Hollygrove M&F tries to promote organic community gardens and features environmentally sustainable and responsible practices such as composting, water catchment, and recycling that serve as a good example to others in the New Orleans community.
But Hollygrove M&F is more than what its name suggests. As a community beneficiary, the site offers a community gathering space and serves as a direct giver to the Hollygrove community. For Hollygrove residents, who tend to be low socio-economic status, the site offers garden plot priorities and mentorship in gardening by trained master gardeners. Residents also receive a 15% discount on all market products. But aside from the food items or garden space Hollygrove members receive; they also are able to use this space freely for their community meetings and needs. “Hollygrove M&F is meant to not just be a place, but an active member of the Hollygrove Community” says Alyssa Denny. Being that the Hollygrove neighborhood is infamous for its violence, this kind of community cohesive action can go a long way. Educationally, Hollygrove M&F offers free cooking and nutrition classes, organic gardening and food preservation workshops. They also conduct garden tours to people of all ages.
Which is where I come in. I was brought in as the Environmental Educational Intern. And I could not be happier with this opportunity. To me, passion is not just about infatuated interest, but also a deep understanding and a want and will to share knowledge with others. Which is exactly what I get to do. Over the past couple months I have been compiling a tailored lesson plan with interactive activities for students and adults. My work has led me to understand the specificity that comes along with education and through this I have created a detailed, site-specific lesson plan that brings students around to different stations and pairs each space with a fun, interactive activity. It was a joy to come up with activities that would excite students about the natural sciences or gardening, such as a soil labeling activity where the children squish dirt in their hands, or giving them a plant scavenger hunt. In just a month, I will also be conducting these tours along with a few other people, and have the chance to see my ideas come to life. The intention of these tours is to introduce and familiarize urban students that perhaps have never seen a farm or even community garden to an urban agriculture site and lay down foundations for environmental education and an understanding of the natural world, when they otherwise might not be given the chance to. While I grew up in the suburbs with nothing but state parks with tall trees towering over me, and a constant sound of birds chirping, many students grow up in urban environments, where their surroundings are buildings and concrete sidewalks. I do not intend to connote one is bad while the other is good; they are different. And for each, there is a lack of understanding about the other. As the education intern, I hope to bridge that gap just a little bit to help urban students understand just a little bit more about the environment, how important it is, and how small step by small step we can help.