Update to this store:NOLA Green Roots to Design and Operate Garden at the Gold Seal Creamery Apartments

The city’s last Creole cream cheese factory is on its way to becoming 31 energy-efficient, mixed-income apartments surrounded by a community garden in Mid-City.

Construction began last month at the former Gold Seal Creamery building at 520 S. Alexander St. and is expected to be completed in December. The $7 million Gold Seal Lofts is a project of the Domain Cos., a New York- and New Orleans-based real estate development firm. Woodward Design+Build is the general contractor.

Gold Seal is Domain’s fourth apartment development in Mid-City. With more than 500 units across the four apartment complexes and a 20,000-square foot retail building on Tulane Avenue, the company has invested $130 million into Mid-City.

Four contiguous vacant lots along the edge of the site will become a garden for residents. A nonprofit group, Nola Green Roots, will design and operate the garden.

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Here in New Orleans, we are always talking about growth in terms of property, rebuilding of houses, complex zoning issues and, most recently, the census.  These issues can seem hopeless because behind each blighted property or each home in need of repair, there is another. The Ninth Ward Community Garden at 1301 Desire Street represents a tangible growth worth celebrating. Nevermind its prolific pecan tree, above-ground garden beds, composted soil and park-like atmosphere, the garden produces fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs in a neighborhood that does not have a grocery store. You can taste this growth.  The Ninth Ward Garden Grand Opening will be celebrated on March 26 at 1301 Desire Street from 1PM to 5PM.  There will be membership signup, a presentation by those who made this garden possible, and NOLA Green Roots beloved baby back ribs!  The garden is made possible by the Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.—DFA is the chief benefactor and physical builder. Dairy Farmers of America volunteers built the garden in three hours.  Talk about initiative! DFA is a cooperative of nearly 17,000 dairy farmers who have banded together to become one of the largest producers of butter and cheese in America.  If anyone knows about unifying around supplying food to our community, it’s this group.  Built on values such as integrity, quality and passion, DFA set the tone for the Ninth Ward Garden to succeed naturally and with dignity.

We invite the entire community, NOLA Green Roots members and their families, and any one who likes food, fun and New Orleans hospitality for a good cause! Please RSVP here: http://nolagreenroots.com/projects/view_project.php?project_id=7

NOLA Green Roots Goes To Harvard


NOLA Green Roots Speaks about Social Enterprise at Nation’s Top University

Joseph Brock, executive director of New Orleans-own, prolific network of community gardens, NOLA Green Roots, is scheduled to speak on a panel at The 2011 Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School’s Social Enterprise Conference on Mardi Gras weekend, March 5-6, 2011. The Conference is presented by the students of each school and has a tagline of “sustaining impact, living change.”

There are 1200 attendees and over 100 panelists from all over the world. This is just another affirmation that Joseph Brock and his brainchild NOLA Green Roots are a model for sustainable, social enterprise not just for this city, but for the country.

What is social enterprise? The easy answer is using business practices to create a lasting and positive movement toward change in a community. It is getting people to remain interested in helping out their community not only once, but habitually and frequently.

NOLA Green Roots has developed its gardens into world-class examples of what community gardens can be—from state-of-the-art chicken coops to rainwater barrel irrigation systems to 3-D raised garden bed animation—with volunteer labor and nearly zero grant funds. In addition, NOLA Green Roots has developed lasting relationships among community participants, invited and hosted groups from all over the country, begun blogging, selling veggies online and expanding membership for all three NOLA Green Roots gardens.
NOLA Green Roots is honored to represent their corner of New Orleans at Harvard University in March. Even Harvard recognizes that the progressive minds of New Orleans, like Joseph Brock, are true game-changers, defying the odds and getting real results.

MSNBC Video: Food Prices on the Increase

We’ve all been watching Egypt’s fight for freedom. What are some of the reasons a country who has been living one way for 30 years would finally get up a nation-wide sense of urgency to take to the streets to enact real change? There are many, but being without food is something that cannot wait. It is urgent. We are next. According to the MSNBC video below, Americans will start to see as much as a 29% increase of food costs in the next 8 to 10 months. The causes are weather, poor crops and more countries participating in the food market. Relying on other countries and box stores for our food makes us vulnerable. Check out this video. I don’t know about you, but this information makes me want to get some seeds in my hand, plant them, harvest them and bring them home to my family.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Associate Director’s Blog #1: Talking Porches and Hunger

I saw a car burning in a grass lot today across from the Gentilly Winn Dixie. I didn’t think much of it. A couple people stopped to see what was going on. Most of us were trying to beat the freight train that crosses Louisa then Desire. The train with the mismatched cars that back up and go forward over and over again across the tracks like a long man scratching his back against the sharp edges of a door-facing. The train scratches at the Louisa that connects me home to the Upper Ninth Ward.

There was a car burning on the side of a busy intersection, and I didn’t think much of it. It was a white sedan with red interior. The flames were shooting out of its open doors and billowing from beneath its engine. I didn’t think much of it. Three weeks ago, the I-10 was shut down because a young man was shot and killed by the driver of the moving car on the Interstate beside him. I took an alternate route to my meeting.

Where is this apocalyptic world where cars are burning and bullets are flying on the highway? It is a place where gas station attendants say, “All right, baby,” when they give you your change.  It is a place where we dance in the street and cry with laughter. It is a place where we hold doors and ask about your mama even if we don’t know you. It is a place where food is the center of our culture.

We are food-centered. Yet, people in our community are going hungry–right now. People in our community feel helpless–right now. People in our community are eating fried chicken wing parts, a hubig’s pie (a local 99-cent pie made out of fried dough and sugar filling), and a soda for dinner because their store does not carry fruit and vegetables or, if they do carry them, they cost too much. Right now.

Our charge is urgent. The New Orleans food disparity is a daily reality for those of us who live in this food-centered city full of jazz, history and old stories passed down through generations. The old porches were built at the same height so people could be at eye-level with their neighbors as they exchanged stories and complaints about day-to-day living. After three hundred years of developing our community, our citizens still do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Tonight, when we go out on our porches, let’s talk about that. Let’s shout it!

Part of the disparity is a Katrina-recovery problem. Most of the grocery stores have come back to high ground and mostly wealthy areas. The other part of our problem with healthy eating is a systemic culture of food sprung from intense and pervasive poverty. More than 26% of Louisiana children live in poverty. In turn, Louisiana is ranked 5th in the United States for obesity according to the 2010 Trust for America’s Health Report and 64.9% of Louisiana adults are overweight or obese according to the 2009 CDC BRFSS. Since 1990, the prevalence of obesity in Louisiana increased by 135%, according to the United Health Foundation. For all these reasons, cultivating affordable, healthy eating habits, long-term is my first reason for coming to work everyday.

Secondly, we believe that knowing where your food comes from creates a community of conscious eaters, neighborhood participants and people open to positive social interaction. Our members have already shown that through their compassion for one another and their dedication to the gardens. I see that everyday.

So what about that burning white sedan? It is too late to do anything about that or the boy who lost his life on the highway. However, I am stopping my car, getting out and touching our vegetables, touching your hands, touching the soil and the restaurant scraps and the hose and the bucket. Together we are stopping, turning the car off, and planting the seeds of a different outcome for our members like Charles and Danielle, their new baby, Judah, and their son, Israel, 2, who has grown up in the Mid City Garden. Did you know Charles is studying to be a dentist? Ask him about it next time you see him out there turning the compost.

We are stopping to lay roots. We are coming together to demand more from our immediate communities. We want the good stuff—the heart of us—to not only live in our music, our parties, and our once-in-a-while barbecues. We want the good stuff to happen daily.

I plan to write frequently on this blog with recipes, poems, videos, songs and words that describe what it feels like for me to be a part of this movement that is greater than any one person. I am the girl who keeps going past a burning vehicle because she is so jaded, so post-apocalyptic, that it doesn’t faze her. I am the woman who kept her doors locked and stayed inside when the porch conversation got going. In the last four months, y’all have made me see that community organizations can make our lives better. All it takes is people like you who get out there and get their hands dirty.

Tell me what you think of the blog as we go forward. We are all in this together.  This is the first day of the documentation of our collective journey.  It is a journey that has no end and no beginning. It is the walk toward the most positive, healthy and joyful life we can find for ourselves. Let’s talk about it here. Let’s talk about what we want, what we see and how things change over time.

For now, I’ll leave you with a recipe.

Garden Special #1:

“No One Will Ever Know You Didn’t Think of It” Asian-Inspired Beef and Broccoli

I found the recipe on the back of $0.75 Sun Bird Seasoning package in the Gentilly WinnDixie.

All you need is: (I pride myself in using as few ingredients as possible.)

NOLA Green Roots Broccoli (whole bag)-FREE

1 Large Sweet Onion-$0.70

Rice (I used brown.)-$1.23

Beef (.075 pound round steak-$6.77

Soy Sauce (2 tablespoons)-Hopefully, you already have it.

Water (2 tablespoons)-FREE

Add some hot sauce and pepper for the real deal-already have it

Sun Bird Beef and Broccoli Seasoning Packet-$.075

Damage to your account: $8.78

Makes 4-6 servings (depending upon portion)

How to Make Tomatoes Turn Red

Yes, it’s winter, and, yes, we are still harvesting tomatoes and placing into the baskets for members to enjoy. However, the number one question we get asked every year is:  ”How do we make tomatoes to turn red?”

Well, getting tomatoes to turn red is not difficult. There are several methods that can be used for making tomatoes turn red. Here are a few:

One way to turn green tomatoes red is to ripen mature green tomatoes in a well-ventilated area at room temperature, checking their progress every few days and discarding unsuitable or soft ones. The cooler the temperature, the longer the ripening process will take. For instance, mature green tomatoes will usually ripen within a couple of weeks in warmer temperatures (65 ºF – 70 ºF) and about a month in cooler temperatures (55 ºF – 60 ºF).

Another way to get your tomatoes to turn red is by using ripening bananas. The ethylene produced from these fruits will help with the ripening process.

If want to know how to turn green tomatoes red, but you only have a few on-hand, using a jar or brown paper bag are also easy and effective methods. Add two to three tomatoes and one ripening banana to each jar or bag and seal it. Place them in a warm area away from sunlight and check them regularly, replacing the banana as needed. Tomatoes should ripen within one or two weeks.

Grand Opening of Wise Words Community Garden

May 29, 2010
3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
724 S. Hennessey Street
New Orleans, LA 70119

Come and celebrate the grand opening of Wise Words Community Garden.  It is more than a garden with its benches, gazebo and deck, it is also a space for community fellowship.  Enjoy FOOD, FUN & FRIENDSHIP! Also, we will be serving our beloved baby back ribs!

Join us from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information,. visit http://www.wisewordscommunitygarden.com.