Some obscure newspaper called the New York Times wrote an article awhile back claiming that the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans was a “Jungleland.” If you really thought that to be true, you really don’t know the Lower 9. And you really don’t know residents like Jenga Mwendo and her neighbors, who have created the Backyard Gardener’s Network there.
Founded in 2009 to bring urban agriculture back to the area, Backyard Gardener’s shows the rest of us that the Lower 9 has a lot to offer the city and its residents. An ambitious slate of programs (Lower 9 Growing Strong among others) actually attracts people to the process of growing food; and we’re talking about all the people: grandparents, mothers, fathers, children, neighbors, storytellers, artists, chefs, policy makers, and young entrepreneurs. There are several gardens at different locations (supported by organizations such as the New Orleans Food and Farm Network, the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, LSU AgCenter, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation), a tool lending library, a garden resource center, a booth at the Algiers Farmer’s Market, and most importantly, the community’s involvement.
Having a food garden in a neighborhood is one thing; having programs that engage the minds and hearts of the people who live there is on a whole other level. Backyard Gardener’s is doing just that with its Lower 9 Growing Strong program, which launched on August 24, just shy of the 8th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Running six days every week, the program features events such as elder art projects, cooking demonstrations, storytelling- including the Street Library, and Community Gardening Days. The first week’s events, in order, are as follows. Monday: Digging in the Dirt with Thaddeus. Tuesday: Community Gardening Day. Wednesday: Open Garden Day. Thursday: Katrina Anniversary, Celebrating the Rich Culture of the Lower Ninth Ward. Friday: Where Seeds are Planted and Children Grow. Saturday: These Watermelons are Sweet! Let’s Meet, Greet, and Eat!
I’d like to know where that metaphorical jungle is, NYT. Let’s talk about your sources.
Join in the celebration of the culture and community of the Lower 9 by participating in the Lower 9 Growing Strong programming, or volunteer with Backyard Gardener’s Network. Plots are available in the two gardens (priority given to Lower 9 residents) if you’ve got the hankering to revisit your agricultural roots or you want to show some love and kindness to your body and the planet with sustainably grown food.
Contact Jenga Mwendo for more information.