Happy New Year!

New Year's EveWe here at Recirculating Farms Coalition wish you and yours a happy healthy new year! As we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome 2015 and all the exciting possibilities it brings, we’d like to review some of the highlights from last year and offer a glimpse of our plans for 2015:

2014 highlights:

SaveSchoolLunch# Campaign – we along with national partners pushed Congress not to change important minimum standards for healthier school lunches.

Protect Our Pogies Campaign – about a billion pounds of “the most important” fish in the Gulf of Mexico – menhaden – (also called “pogies”) is caught annually – with no annual cap or monitoring of the industry. We are asking policymakers to cap the catch and also make sure other sea life – like dolphins and sharks – aren’t being killed accidentally when these fish are caught.

No Factory Fish Farms Campaign – this year the National Marine Fisheries Service and their parent agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration decided industrial fish farming should develop in the Gulf of Mexico – sound crazy? We think so! We along with various partners are trying to stop this madness  – the Gulf does not need the potential for more pollution and debris!

Opening of our Growing Local NOLA Community Food and Farm Center – Hooray! in October we hosted the community opening of our public campus in Central City, New Orleans. We celebrated with farm to table cooking demonstrations, using food right from our own garden, sample exercise classes – yoga, zumba, salsa dancing and boot camp – a mini farmers market with fresh produce, crafts and pickled and jarred foods from various local vendors, live music, a seafood boil and our friends – Brec on the Geaux – a recreational vehicle that offers basketball, obstacle courses, hoola hoops and other equipment anywhere – provided fun for kids and adults alike! We had over 200 friends neighbors and colleagues join us for our opening event and partake in all the activities.

Summer classes series – even before we had everything just perfect at our Center – we were hosting free classes and events for the public – from health supportive cooking, using all the great herbs and veggies we were growing, to gardening and farming 101 trainings – summer school was the place to be!

Farm to School resolution passed in Louisiana! – WOW – this was a major win for us and our collaborative partners – and a great indication that Louisiana is poised to bring better local food into our schools.

 

Projections for 2015:

Ramping up our classes schedule at Growing Local NOLA – Last year our summer and fall series were a huge hit. This year, as soon as the weather warms up a bit (early March) we’ll be back in thigh gear – hosting 3 classes a week (What’s cooking on Wednesdays, Get movin’ on Thursdays and Let’s grow on Saturdays) PLUS our 2 day intensive farmer 101 trainings every other month.

National policy work continues – we expect to continue working on protect the pogies, factory fish farming and farm to school campaigns and already have started work on others, like national organic standards for water-based farms. We look forward to great successes this year!

New staff - As our programs and initiatives expand – so do we! We’ve added administrative support and communications and media folks to our national team and in New Orleans we now have farmers on site at Growing Local NOLA. In 2015, we look forward to further strategic growth.

Testing new farm designs and green building materials – some of the biggest challenges in innovative farming are the materials available for use. We rely so heavily on plastics and sourcing locally can be difficult. In an effort to be “greener” we are trying alternative materials – like bamboo, rubber and coconut husks and shells for pipes, planters and more.

Growing collaborations in the Gulf – one of our primary goals for the year is working to develop stronger partnerships and collaborations throughout the Gulf states to jointly address important issues – like food security, land access and insurance for small scale farmers.

Green energy – we are trying to be totally “off grid”-  we’ve been slowly installing individual solar energy systems to power various parts of Growing Local NOLA. We have cooling fans and irrigation in our greenhouse running entirely on solar panels and recently we outfitted our larger scale aquaponics system with it’s own solar energy source too. We hope to continually add to these until we are able to power our lights and more without hooking up to the grid.

New website! – in the new we say – and we are very excited about upgrading our website – watch for real design and content change coming soon!

 

 

THANK YOU!

thank you multi lingualRecirculating Farms Coalition has had many wonderful things to be thankful for this year – from building our new Community Garden in New Orleans and starting our demonstration and education classes there, to broadening our network of partners and friends nationwide by working collaboratively on various projects: school food, ocean aquaculture, growth of recirculating farming and more.

We are especially thankful this year for the dedication and hard work of our organization team and all of you, our volunteers, online activists, and supporters in making this our best year ever!

THANK YOU for all you do – together we are building a better, more sustainable and healthy future.

 

Marianne Cufone

Executive Director

Community Opening of Growing Local NOLA!

shrimp boil 2What a day we had October 4th. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze and the growing Local NOLA community center was hopping with food, music and activities. Our community opening was a huge success!

We had fabulous food: a shrimp boil (local shrimp, potatoes and vegetables cooked on site eaten hot straight from the pot), fresh pesto on crostini (with basil right from the garden), TONS of snacks: whole fruit, popcorn, yogurts, granola bars, and beverages: naturally flavored seltzers, cold filtered water (no plastic bottles!) and “mocktails” – orange mango ginger refreshments. The star of the day was certainly the raw zucchini “pasta” in a red tomato sauce, donated by local vegetarian and vegan restaurant, Seed.

We provided a wide array of activities, including demonstrations that attendees happily participated in: salsa dancing, yoga and even boot camp! Fit NOLA instructors jumped in too and got people moving doing zumba and hoola hooping. Our friends Brec on the Geaux – a recreational vehicle from Baton Rouge – joined us and brought jump ropes, basketball nets and balls and set up obstacle courses. The kids in particular enjoyed their offerings.

Music included a traditional New Orleans brass band and the Honeypots later in the evening. There was much dancing and singing.

Perhaps the most exciting thing that day was the nearly 200 people who came to celebrate with us.

We look forward to offering a wide range of classes, programs and activities at the center going forward – watch here for a calendar of events coming soon!

THANKS to: 7th Ward Boys and Girls Garden, Appropriate Technologies, Boasso America, Brec on the Geaux, Fit NOLA, Griffith Graphics and Design, Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, Home Depot, Just Ask, Loyola University of New Orleans School of Law and School of Mass Communications, Our School at Blair Grocery, Pistil and Stamen Flower Farm, Seed, The Donnelley Center, The Urban Farmstead, and Xavier University.

Our wonderful farm team: Max Appley, William Baddour, Jordan Bantuelle, Ann Christian, Louisiana Master Gardener Ica Crawford, Devin Foi, Maria Hinds, Rob Huffman, Quentin Potter, Louisiana Master Gardener Debra Surtain, and Jacob Zeairs.

Special Kudos to Sascha Bollag, Micheal Crumpler and Emily Posner for going above and beyond always.

And of course BIG THANKS to our main sponsor, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, for all their support in bringing this to our community. We are so excited about the far-reaching impacts here and beyond!

Read more here in the article about us in The Advocate! Thanks to fabulous local reporter Mary Rickard for her interest in and time at our event!

Ocean fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico

It’s been a number of years since the federal government continued pushing to allow large floating cages filled with fish in our already stressed Gulf waters. Believe it or not, National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency tasked with conservation and management of all things fish and fishing in the U.S. – is trying to get people to believe that growing fish is the same as fishing, and therefore the agency is able to permit industrial fish farming operations in the Gulf of Mexico – and SOON! Last week, NMFS (pronounced “Nymphs”) announced that regulations to allow open water fish farms as close as 3 miles offshore in the Gulf are about to be finalized. There is a 60 day open public comment period right now, and following, the new law would be published as final.

Open water fish farming has a global history of serious problems – from massive pollution to interference with other ocean uses like fishing, diving, swimming and boating. Experimental operations have mostly done poorly in the U.S., requiring huge inputs of public dollars to remain open or failing and closing.

Recirculating farms grew in popularity as a response to development of open water fish farms years ago, because closed loop systems avoid most of the problems created in open water farms – there is no outflow of pollution, fish can’t escape, it’s harder for diseases and parasites to get to the fish, and there is no interference with wildlife. There is just no need to move forward with outdated open water commercial fish farms at this time when there are better, more sustainable options available today.

But for some reason, NMFS keeps pushing forward with allowing commercial fish farms in the ocean, starting with the Gulf of Mexico. In recent years, the Gulf has been battered by hurricanes, covered in oil and then sprayed above and below with chemicals in an effort to mask the terrible effects of the spill. The Gulf, its the  wildlife and all the people who live near and work on and in Gulf waters can not handle the effects that can come with industrial aquaculture on top of the already existing problems.

And its not just about the Gulf – if this law is finalized, NMFS will try to issue permits in other places around the U.S. as well – where’s next? New England? California? Please join us in telling NMFS we don’t want industrial fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico -or any other U.S. waters.

Xavier Students Take “Community Plunge”

At 9am on Saturday morning the Growing Local NOLA campus in Central City, New Orleans was hopping. Thirty new freshman from Xavier University were busy cleaning, painting and planting! The volunteers participated in an orientation “Community Plunge”, a program designed to immerse incoming students in the culture of New Orleans by working with local organizations. Channel 4 came out to cover the event – check out the TV clip!

Many thanks to Louisiana Master Gardener, Debra Surtain, for arranging the event!