RFC Awarded USDA Grant – Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden Visits!

Dep Sec Hardin at GLNFebruary 2nd was an exciting day for us here at the Recirculating Farms Coalition. We learned that we’d been awarded a New and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to supporting training and mentoring for urban farmers in innovative growing methods like recirculating hydroponics, aquaculture and aquaponics, combined with traditional soil-based farming. AND the announcement came with an in-person visit from USDA’s Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and various USDA staff from Louisiana and Washington, DC! Read USDA’s press release here.

Deputy Secretary Harden, accompanied by Louisiana and Washington, DC staff, toured RFC’s community garden, spoke with food and farm project leaders and enjoyed assorted treats prepared with ingredients from local farms.

Shout out to the various local farms and food businesses that provided food for our menu:

7th Ward Boys and Girls Garden – 7th Ward, New Orleans; Capstone Community Gardens – 9th Ward, New Orleans; Grow Dat Youth Farm – City Park, New Orleans; Growing Local NOLA – Central City, New Orleans; Happy Hen Farm – St. Rose, LA; Inglewood Farm – Alexandria, LA; Landry-Poche Strawberry Farm – Ponchatoula, LA; Locally Preserved – New Orleans; Schwars Citrus – Braithwaite, LA; and VEGGI Farmers Cooperative – New Orleans East!

The Deputy Secretary spoke to a diverse crowd of farmers, educators, community members and press on this initiative to train, mentor, and enhance the success of future farmers and ranchers. See video here.

“As new farmers and ranchers get started, they are really looking to their community for support. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program empowers these farmers and ranchers to bring innovative ideas to the table when it comes to addressing food security, creating economic enterprises, and building communities,” said Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. ”

Our Executive Director Marianne Cufone followed with thanks and appreciation for the grant, the visit and for everyone who works so hard in the food farming community:

“I want to first thank Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and the rest of the USDA folks for coming here, to New Orleans, to make these announcements. Highlighting our community and supporting training and mentorship in farming here is so important for us all to have access to healthy fresh affordable food, and for our farmers to be both ecologically and economically sustainable. We are very excited about being part of the New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

I also very much thank all of you for joining with us here. You are each a critical piece of the food and farming community and the time, energy and heart you put into this work has empowered us all to create green spaces, more good local food and perhaps most importantly, a network of friends, colleagues and partners, who work together to grow literally and collaboratively in this City and beyond.

There are so many innovative, amazing projects and programs in food and farming that you all make happen – I look forward to us all sharing them this morning with each other, Deputy Secretary Harden and the rest of the USDA staff.

Thank you so much for all that you do!”

We’ll be posting more pix from the event on our Facebook page and you can read our press release about the event here.

Colleges do “MLK Day of Service”

Students in greenhouse 2On Martin Luther King Day, January 19th, 45 students and professors from Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, University of New Orleans and Dillard all came out to our Growing Local NOLA community garden to lend support to us here at Recirculating Farms Coalition. The joint program of all the colleges fosters interaction among students at different institutions and helps to inspire a connection to the city and local organizations, in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s dream of community.

We accomplished so much – building compost bins, sorting and planting seeds, painting, weeding and some general spring cleaning and organizing!

Big thanks to everyone who participated – and special kudos to our LA Master Gardener Debra Surtain for organizing the event, the visiting Rev. Sally Wright from Presbyterian Church USA and our NOLA team who worked hard on their day off!

We all enjoyed working together and look forward to doing it again soon!

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!