We 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:
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!