Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crowd Source Appeal

Urban farmers of Our School at Blair Grocery
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hello Everyone:

Urban farming an idea that is rapidly catching on in cities across the United States.  The concept is simple, urban farming offers to make the food we eat more "local" by growing what we need closer to home.  This reduces the "food miles" associated long-distance transportation and we get the freshest produce available and are encouraged to eat in season.  It's a brilliant solution to mitigating soil erosion, water loss, and pollution from the over farming and long-distance transportation of food to local markets. One organization that is taking an active role in this trend is the New Orleans Food and Farm Network.  The goal of NOFFN is build a local food economy that "...expands the residents' self-reliance through food production, uses land responsibly and sustainably, helps farmers make a living, and makes the needed connections among people, farms, and food."(  To achieve this goal, NOFFN is crowd funding soil for an incubator farm.  This incubator farm will provide regular on-site mentoring for farmers so the build their business and agricultural skills, then start farms of their own in other parts of New Orleans.

Greenhouses on an urban farm in New Orleans

Why is NOFFN crowd sourcing soil?  When you're a food-obsessed city like New Orleans, it would seem only natural that urban farms would take hold in a big way.  Community gardens took root in the eighties, prompted by economic decline that saw the oil companies moving to Houston, Texas.  At their peak, the community gardens numbered one hundred-fifty, nearly all used to grow food, according to Jean Fehr, the executive director of Parkway Partners.  In the nineties, urban development consumed most this land and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina more than tripled the number of vacant lots.  Enter the next generation of urban farmers, most of whom operate through NOFFN.

Vet Village Urban Farm
The goal of NOFFN's work has always been to help create economically viable and sustainable portions of the local food system.  Since NOFFN can marry local foodies and urban agriculture with real information and strategic support, they are able to incubate multiple models and methods whose diversity lends strength to the growing structure of the local food economy.  Their partners at have informed NOFFN that there is an abundance of economic markets for locally grown produce.  Over the past two years, NOFFN has the FarmCity Initiative which is meant to build a pipeline of growers and farmers-the future of local food system. This initiative grew out of feedback from urban growers and communities asking for support in gaining a stake in the local food movement.  Through it partnerships to assist many of the larger projects in New Orleans, it was made apparent that reaching out to people with limited means and giving them the skills, information, and opportunities required removing the obstacles to starting a farming business. Through FarmCity Toolbox, NOFFN provides the methodology, resources, and connections to aid entrepreneurial farming endeavor develop in the city through:

FarmCity Toolbox-Land Issues
FarmCity Toolbox-Financing
FarmCity Toolbox-Market Development (coming soon)

The Hollygrove Indoor Market
Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana
These tools only work well with coordinated actions like NOFFN's Grow Mo' Betta workshops, technical assistance incubate projects, and the incubation of farmers.  The New Orleans Food and Farm Network has helped incubate farmers through the linkage of apprentice farmers with mentors, but they have come to the conclusion that they need to do more.  NOFFN wants to go a step further by developing their own pilot Incubator Farm (Farm Accelerator) on a vacant lot adjacent to their office.  It is hoped that the Incubator Farm will have a two-pronged effect on their work:

1) The vacant lot becomes a specific location with flexible hours to accommodate farmers with day jobs and offer one-on-one mentoring and additional support beyond the FarmCity Training; strengthening farm and business plans; obtaining access to available land: building farm fertility; establishing beginning marketing connections; and searching for all possible sources of financing.

2) Act as an example of transforming a vacant lot into an active space in an underserved neighborhood. This will help community engagement efforts by encouraging the neighborhood residents to consider taking on projects at the available land in their communities.  The initial cost for the pilot Incubator Farm is about $28,000, including soil, fencing, storage, water hookups, irrigation supplies, seeds, and pest management.  Here's how you can help:

The New Orleans Food and Farm Network is asking for donations in increments of $20-$200 to help fund their pilot projects.  You can click on and donate.  Also check out the events and blogs on the site.  Thanks for your support

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