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New Orleans’ community gardens

Wise Words Community Garden – Mid-City grows another urban farm

By Alex Woodward
Best of New Orleans
Jan. 22, 2010

Allison Pressimone and Allie George, students from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, are only in town for a few days but Joseph Brock is making sure they get their hands dirty.

The volunteers, part of a dozen on a service trip to New Orleans through HandsOn, are tilling soil and setting up tomato supports on the raised beds at the Wise Words Community Garden. Other volunteers are busy planting herbs and spreading fertilizer.

“If you build it, they will come,” says Brock, the Mid-City Community Garden executive director.

He broke ground on the lots at 724 S. Hennessey St. in November 2009. “Right now I’m in construction mode,” he says. “That’s the hardest part.”

The garden is designed for both food and art; Brock wants the garden to resemble an outdoor gallery, with works on display along the fences and in the soil beds. As the name implies, words of inspiration will line each bed and brick. The garden also will celebrate the art of food, with local chefs preparing dishes using ingredients from the garden during weekly cooking demonstrations. Brock already has caught the attention of neighborhood joints Huevos and Crescent City Pie and Sausage, the Ruby Slipper Cafe, Liberty’s Kitchen and Parkway Bakery and Tavern.

Next up are rainwater cisterns, slated roofs on each container bed and a greenhouse.

??The garden may be in its infancy, but it’s producing. Basil, parsley, dill and a few other herbs, as well as leafy greens and vegetables are filling out several of the container beds, with room for tomatoes and seasonal produce in the coming months.

“Every single space needs a plant,” he says.

Brock also wants to build a chicken coop, much like the one he installed in the Mid-City Community Garden at 516 S. Salcedo St., in his own backyard. The community garden grew from his personal vegetable stash. The seeds cost him pennies, he says, and he gave what he couldn’t eat to his neighbors at no charge. “I had more than I could eat,” he says. “I didn’t want to waste seeds.”

He extended his lot to the paved one next door. Rather than dig up the busted soil underneath the concrete, Brock enlisted community partners to help — the New Orleans Food and Farm Network and HandsOn volunteers helped build a container garden, leaving a rough skeleton of a garden sitting on the lot, which Brock cared for himself.

“The neighborhood don’t believe in green,” he says. “You have to show it.” Neighborhood kids brought their families to investigate rumors of live chickens, and ended up joining Brock’s co-operative garden program that now includes Wise Words, where members can “reap the benefits of the Mid-City garden,” he says.

See the complete article here.

Wise Words Community Garden website here.

Mid-City Community Garden website here.

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