This article is an excerpt from New Orleans: Structure, Community, City. Find it at the Greenbuild Bookstore or contact Jen Illescas at [email protected]/magazine.

Although the Port of New Orleans is responsible for massive shiploads of agricultural products on their way from the American heartland to the rest of the world, the locavore movement—toward fresher, unprocessed food cultivated on local farms—is bursting to life in New Orleans. With an abundance of empty lots post-Katrina, many community gardeners became urban-farm entrepreneurs.

Here are two successful, but very different, growing enterprises that educate and inspire their communities.

1. Good Food Farm


Good Food Farm part-time employee Miss Pat (center) tends her own section of the farm where she grows eggplant, cotton, okra, and many other plants. Photo: Caleb Fox

Established in the Tremé neighborhood, Good Food Farm is currently the only urban farm in the city that funds itself entirely through sales. The farm’s clients are some of New Orleans’ top restaurants and hotels, including Sylvain, Root and Square Root, Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA Restaurant, and several restaurants run by James Beard Foundation Awardee John Besh.

At least 25 of the farm’s restaurant clients receive weekly farm shares, which keeps a steady stream of income for the small, community-focused farm.

Good Food specializes in microgreens such as shizo, mustard greens, amaranth, and basil and provides jobs to two full-time and three part-time staff members. Over the long term, the farm wants to provide jobs and job training—to do so will mean expanding, but in the meantime, volunteers and members of the local community learn how to garden on their own.

One of the part-time employees is a 30-year resident of the neighborhood who has been working at the farm for two years now—two years that have been “the most purposeful of her life.”

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Microgreens are Good Food’s specialty and its biggest cash-crop for high-end restaurants in the area.


With two full-time and three part-time staffers as well as volunteers, Good Food teaches the community about sustainable gardening practices. Photo: Caleb Fox


Thanks to more than 25 regular high-profile clients, Good Food is the only financially self-sustaining urban farm in New Orleans. Photo: Caleb Fox


The relatively modest farm provides produce to several noteworthy restaurants, including Sylvain, Root and Square Root, and Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA Restaurant. Photo: Caleb Fox


Shizo, mustard greens, amaranth, and basil are just some of the microgreens that Good Food Farm grows. Photo: Caleb Fox

2. Grow Dat Youth Farm

Located on seven acres of land in City Park, Grow Dat Youth Farm sells 60 percent of what it grows to markets, restaurants, and corner stores, with the remaining 40 percent designated as “shared harvest” and donated to food distribution charities. Teenagers and young adults are the primary employees, engaged in garden chores as well as educational programs and marketing tasks.

Johanna Gilligan, Grow Dat’s founder and executive director, describes the program as a way to actively engage with people in a different paradigm, one that’s able to address economics, nutrition, and job skills through one enterprise rather than dealing with each need in one-off programs. Gilligan is a former teacher and found that many of her students were working in the fast-food industry, so she conceptualized Grow Dat to build healthier relationships between people and food by making them a part of the entire food-production process.

Grow Dat has a strong partnership with Tulane City Center and the Tulane School of Architecture, which designed and helped build the farm’s new open-air, net-zero facility made of repurposed shipping containers. The building includes an outdoor classroom, a teaching kitchen, administrative offices, locker rooms, bathrooms with composting toilets, and a large post-harvest area.

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Johanna Gilligan (right) is the founder and executive director of Grow Dat Youth Farm, which operates out of a small workspace built out of recycled shipping containers. Photo: Caleb Fox


The shipping-container structure is net-zero energy, using no more power than it generates. Photo: Caleb Fox


Gilligan and her team recruit students from New Orleans-area high schools to teach them about farming practices and food preparation in its demonstration kitchen. Photo: Caleb Fox


Grow Dat occupies just seven of the 1,300 acres of City Park. Photo: Caleb Fox


The two-story headquarters, which provides administrative offices and a teaching kitchen, was designed by Tulane City Center and Tulane’s School of Architecture. Photo: Caleb Fox


Nearly half of Grow Dat’s yield is designated as a “shared harvest” and donated to food distribution charities. Photo: Caleb Fox

This article is an excerpt from New Orleans: Structure, Community, City. Find it at the Greenbuild Bookstore or contact Jen Illescas at [email protected]/magazine.