In a city like New Orleans, with food as a cornerstone of their culture and history, it only seems natural for the local communities to crave spaces where they can farm for themselves. This desire eventually led to organization of farming plots in many neighborhoods and vacant lots. With sustainable influences from landscape architects, nominal sites around the city have been transformed to structured social outlets that strengthen communities, proving that landscape architects can confront social issues through design. Below are a few examples of larger projects in New Orleans area that have sustained the urban agriculture revolution.
GROW DAT YOUTH FARM
In collaboration with design students at Tulane University, the Grow Dat Organization has begun construction of their Youth Farm to help continue their mission to use urban agriculture as a platform to encourage the development of young adults from local communities. Many studios at Tulane collaborated to form the sites layout and setup that will maintain the growing and educational programming on site. The youth farm will donate and sell produce for their revenue at many local farmers markets, teaching participants valuable skills. The permanent plots will be housed on a 4-acre plot inside New Orleans largest urban park, City Park, and will showcase how social design can influence a city through education. The project has already received much recognition through local grants and the Urban Innovation Fellowship, and should be fully functional in early 2012.
Areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina have left vacant lots and uninhabitable homes still standing around the city of New Orleans. Growing Home aka Lot Next Door Program, was founded by the Louisiana Land Trust and the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, to encourage the demolition of such structures and the redevelopment of empty lots as way for neighborhoods to strengthen after the hurricane and discourage blight. Homeowners can purchase vacant lots near their homes for a discounted rate as a way to encourage urban farming and neighborhood beautification. Once the lot is purchased, a team of landscape architects and Growing Home coordinators will help design a garden or landscape project fitting with the owner’s needs and lifestyle. The team of landscape architects will then educate the homeowner about sustainable practices such as utilizing rain water, maintenance of the vegetation and will walk them through the DIY design process. This organization has already reached a milestone of 1000 agreements for lot renovations.
VIET VILLAGE URBAN FARM
The Vietnamese-American community located in North East New Orleans has continually cultivated a system of urban gardens since their migration from Vietnam in the mid 1970’s. This unique 30-acre farming area allowed for the cultivation of traditional fruits and vegetables that were not available locally to the Vietnamese immigrants and has helped provide for the community throughout the decades. This urban farming village and accompanied informal markets were destroyed after the Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. A local firm, Spackman Mossop and Michaels, formed a design that successfully tackled the cultural and environmental issues to reestablish the once injured community. While funding has been an issue, the urban farm has slowly become a more formalized version of its previous self. A Vietnamese market has opened to encourage more involvement, activity and of course revenue to help complete the future stages of the urban agricultural project. With focus on sustainable water and urban farming practices as well community reestablishment, it truly has become a prime example how culture and landscape architecture can be combined. This project won a 2008 ASLA Analysis and Planning Professional Award.