Recirculating Farms Help New Orleans Eat Local

As New Orleans begins its second annual Eat Local Challenge, the Recirculating Farms Coalition celebrates the launch of a new rooftop garden in the heart of the city and urges more grocers, restaurateurs, and consumers to get involved in growing local food.

This evening, the NOLA Locavores and partners kicked off the Eat Local Challenge with a party on the rooftop of the new Rouses Market, a Louisiana owned grocery store, in downtown New Orleans. For the month of June, Eat Local Challenge participants pledge to eat only foods that come from within a 200-mile radius of the city. Although southern Louisiana is home to many farmers and fishermen who provide top-notch products, eating exclusively local is not easy.

A challenge like this highlights the need for more local food production, and recirculating farms are an excellent way to ramp up growing—especially since they can be built in virtually any setting.

Several recirculating farms are operating in and around New Orleans, and tonight’s Eat Local Challenge party marks the launch of another: Roots on the Rooftop, which will provide fresh herbs to Rouses Market for use in its prepared foods and for sale to customers. Designed and built by Aquaponics Modular Production Systems, a Recirculating Farms Coalition member, Roots on the Rooftop will grow plants in space-efficient vertical towers using a type of recirculating farming called aeroponics. In aeroponics, plants are suspended in air and roots are intermittently sprinkled with nutrient-rich water. The system will allow Rouses to use or sell the herbs grown on its rooftop soon after picking them.

Commissioner of Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry, Mike Strain, spoke at the event. He was very supportive of recirculating farming and commended Rouses, AMPS and all the partners for being leaders in bringing more local fresh food to Louisiana. He praised the innovation and uniqueness of the rooftop farm and said he hoped to see more of the like in the future.

Farm to table local food is so fresh – and the Locavore Challenge highlights the many products we can get in around New Orleans. We are hoping the Challange and new rooftop garden will inspire other businesses and communities in New Orleans and beyond to create their own recirculating farms.

Recirculating Farms Coalition Executive Director, Marianne Cufone is participating in the Eat Local Challenge and will be providing blogs, tweets and Facebook posts about how things are going throughout the month of June. Stay tuned!


Recirculating Farms Coalition ED Visits Northern Farms – Part I

After many weeks of working hard with local partners in and around New Orleans building community support for recirculating farms and farmers, it was time to hit the road and visit a few of the many recirculating farms around the U.S. (see some of them here on our new farm map!)

First stop – New York. There, we spent time at farms in Brooklyn and also further upstate in Mount Kisco.

In Brooklyn, I met up with our summer outreach and advocacy intern Mari Flora, and Paula Daniels, a Senior Advisor on Food Policy from the Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office. Together, we visited Dr. Martin Schreibman at Brooklyn College where the Aquatic Research and Environmental Center is raising tilapia, horseshoe crabs and other critters in an indoor recirculating aquaculture lab. Brooklyn College also has several small-scale aquaponic systems growing peppers, lettuces, and herbs together with tilapia. Recently, the college added vermiculture (using worms to create nutrient-rich soil) for other growing projects and just completed a beautiful rooftop greenhouse. Joining us were Edward Schultz, Julia Schultz and Mike Kubis – hopeful new farmers from New Jersey, interested in building an aquaponic facility. We all spent the morning with Dr Schreibman, and then Paula, Mari and I headed out for an afternoon in Mount Kisco.

Mount Kisco is about an hour north of Manhattan. It has rolling hills, a fantastic downtown area and a metro north train station that takes you straight to Grand Central. It’s home to Cabbage Hill Farm – an idyllic non-profit family farm that includes traditional soil-grown produce, assorted well cared for animals and an aquaponic greenhouse.  (See our video here of Cabbage Hill Farm and also photos).

Barney Sponenberg is the manager of the aquaponic greenhouse at Cabbage Hill Farm.He’s growing a variety of greens – lettuces, herbs, chard, bok choi and more – and raising trout, tilapia, and bass. Barney shared with us his growing process, challenges, successes and ideas for how to improve the function of the recirculating system. Cabbage Hill Farm sells their produce and fish to various local restaurants and stores, as well as at farmers markets.

Stay tuned for our next stop – Chicago!