USDA and Sankofa Dedicate the People’s Garden

Feeding the Community

photos by Tyana Jackson

Tyana Jackson Data News Weekly Contributor

Among many of the challenges New Orleans faced after Hurricane Katrina, the need to preserve the land and environment is one often forgotten. Most predominately Black, underprivileged communities sometimes lack the access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Community-based organizations are working to bring together resources to educate and support the residents and on Sept. 1st, the People’s Garden was dedicated in the Lower Ninth Ward located at 5029 St. Claude Court at North Rampart.
The first of its kind garden in the city was a result of a partnership with The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Natural Resources Conversation Service (NRCS) working with the Sankofa Community Development Corporation. The garden dedication ceremony promoted what is being called Louisiana’s first People’s Garden, which will further assist community members with growing fresh and healthy food.

“They have been supporting our food access, our environmental wetlands, educational work, and community garden work and it has been always about if the people in the neighborhood to have what they need,” said Rashida Ferdinand, the Executive Director of Sankofa, who spoke of the partnership with USDA.

The lower ninth ward People’s Garden is now one of seventeen flagship gardens in urban cities across the nation. The ability to understand where and how your food is grown is a privilege, some residents of the ninth ward do not have but with this partnership, they are now physically able to access many foods, Ferdinand explained. The garden grows vegetables and fruits that promote a healthier lifestyle in the community.

“It’s all about the community, gardening is a communal healing experience,” said Pamela Brown, Project Manager and Director of NewCorp Inc, a non-profit organization that provides assistance for minorities and women-owned businesses, who have difficulties accessing traditional funds. “Don’t get me wrong I know it is hard and hot, but it is worth it in the end,” Brown said.

At the ceremony, both organizations affirmed their commitment to support residents of the lower ninth ward to continue the process of rehabilitation for their community. In addition to food access, this includes access to healthcare, employment, and housing in order to rebuild that foundation around the culture that was passed from generation to generation, Brown said.

“We are here in New Orleans to help revitalize fruits and vegetables right here in the community, where moms and dads, sons and daughters need fresh fruits and vegetables while helping young men and women learn about agriculture,” said James Tillman, the regional conservations for the USDA-NRCS.

Residents received a variety of the plants and herbs grown in the garden that were given away samples of what the garden can produce. And beyond food, the garden will be a site to educate residents on how to practice gardening with conservation methods, and it will also serve as greenspace in the community that will be a habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

“I work with a fabulous team of staff members, that I am really honored to have worked with for so many years and our work has always been centered around the people in the community,” Ferdinand said.

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