Danielle Dinner with the New Orleans Food and Farm Network (NOFFN) says the group's Growing Back to Our Roots Directory project serves two functions: "To connect different growers with the neighborhoods they're in, and to [show] people that you don't need a lot of money or a lot of resources or space to grow (plants)," she says. "We're trying to show you can grow whether it's in pots, in the ground, wherever."
NOFFN has collected information about 100 community and private gardens from its online survey, and by this fall it plans to release a printed guide, sorted by neighborhood, that shows what is available and where.
"We have community gardens as large as a yard, then there are people on roofs with pots, so there's no real standard," Dinner says. Most gardens are in Uptown, Mid-City and Bywater, and cucumbers, eggplants and tomatoes are prominent plants. Dinner says there's also a number of fruit trees cropping up.
Helping to design the database and gather information is environmental design firm Thalweg Studio. Jakob Rosenzweig, who created the Prospect.1 map, explains what his company is bringing to the project.
How did the company get involved?
I met with NOFFN and told them about this idea. ... At first I just wanted to make a set of maps. They knew about my mapmaking "hobby." We started off on that foot. I jumped into the local food growing scene working with Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, and made a garden, and met so many people in the food world. I kept discovering there were so many growers who actually didn't know other growers — they would actually meet other people through us. I thought it was interesting and also a little frustrating, so I pitched the idea to NOFFN: "Maybe we should try to make something that makes everybody realize they're all a part of the same movement."
One thing we're finding with this is people grow for a lot of different reasons. One of the questions we ask (in the survey) is, "What do you find most rewarding about gardening?" and we get a huge variety of responses to that.
At first the directory was supposed to be a book of maps, like an atlas. Then it evolved into a larger thing. It's three chapters.
How are those chapters divided?
The first is introductory essays. People can use our book for reference, like a yearbook, I like to call it. The essays set a tone, describing the history of the movement and what the NOFFN hopes to see in New Orleans in the next 10, 14 years. This is only the beginning.
The second chapter is the maps. There are a few different maps — from food to straight-up environmentalism. I'm still not sure if those maps are going to be out of place, but I think they come with the territory: people who are already aware of growing food locally, those people are usually conscious of other environmental things.
The third chapter is the directory. We've divided the city into 13 districts. We list each district and list the growers that fill out our survey.
What are on the maps?
We have a map of all the different growers. To protect peoples' privacy, I'm not labeling any streets or the garden (names) themselves. It's more of getting a reading of the city in terms of how dense is our local growing culture. We're not just listing the growers, we're actually (grouping) the growers — things like school gardening, commercial gardens, and making distinctions with growers growing for food and personal consumption and those that actually grow, sow and make money.
We're also mapping garden centers, (and) we're mapping additional resources: coffee shops, breweries, stables — places that produce waste that's compostable. Within each district, there are a lot of resources growers can use.
Visit www.noffn.org for more information on the survey and database, and to enter your garden.