Naming the Goal: Pontchartrain Basin Agricultural Network

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin is a 10,000 square mile watershed encompassing 16 Louisiana parishes. The land use of the region is both rural and urban.  It is the most densely populated region in Louisiana, including metro New Orleans and the state capital, Baton Rouge.  The Basin is one of the largest estuarine systems in the Gulf of Mexico and contains over 22 essential habitats and numerous rare plants. 

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation website

For a region known for its legendary food,  southeastern Louisiana’s direct marketing farming production remains shockingly sparse and largely disconnected. For example, New Orleans has a majority African-American population and longstanding Central American and Vietnamese communities, yet has few successful production farmers that serve or who come from those communities. The Native American/indigenous population continues to protect the land but is not given enough direct support to lead the way. The city of New Orleans hosts fewer than a half-dozen regularly scheduled farmers markets and has few sustained sites or support for encouraging or brokering intermediate (small grocers, family restaurants, and food box programs) sales for direct marketing farmers. Few multi-generational farms exist in the region, partly due to the heavy emphasis on commodity production via plantation-style farming. Lastly, the region lacks long-term networks and funding of support around training, marketing, and education for farmers and for food shoppers. The increasing fragility of the entire Gulf Coast is partly to blame, as is the overdevelopment of the productive land in the parishes across the watershed.

By establishing the Pontchartrain Basin Agricultural Network (PBAR) as a valuable and unique initiative, we can increase support for regionally grown food by connecting the entrepreneurial activity within the regional food system to climate change initiatives in the Gulf Coast.

This idea was born from the work many have done over the last 20+ years in and around New Orleans. I hope to see the network included in plans and funding that are mitigating climate instability and supporting entrepreneurs and residents in being better stewards of our place. How we expect to begin:

1. To build the Pontchartrain Basin Ag Network WordPress site with a focus on mapping production and case studies, interviews, and news stories of any strong climate and food work in the region.

2. To lend support to direct to consumer farms or outlets through technical assistance or resource development for mitigating climate events on their businesses.

Feel free to get in touch with me via this site if you have suggestions or comments about the PBAR idea.

1970-2010 Timeline

Community-based initiatives and businesses that contributed to the regional food and farming sector in and around New Orleans during this era. Have something to add or correct? Please let me know.

-The Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (MAC) was established in 1972 as an affiliate of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (1967). Farmers like 4th generation Ben Burkett in Petal, Mississippi fostered collective action and justice work through entities like MAC, the Indian Springs Farmers Association and through farming the land and sharing  knowledge. The Burketts continue that work today, with daughter Darnella now also working statewide and nationally while farming her own land and raising her daughter to be the next generation of activist in the family.

-1972: Buying clubs form, including the Robert Street Co-op, Marengo Street Co-op, Cohn Street Co-op
(From Robert Thompson, longtime activist): The residents of the house included other Tulane students Steve Samuels and Rick Moss. A buyer went to the French Market and bought seasonal stuff, and was arranged like a store with buyers circulating around buying what they wanted. Liz and I worked the cash register each week. Afterwards a guy from the Marengo St commune would come and buy up all the remaining food. This coop functioned during the school year. In summertime, the student members left, and those of us who lived here would combine efforts at the coop on Cohn Street. The serious player there was an acquaintance named Armand Jonte. He was later a chef at Gautreaux’s I think. Last I heard he moved to Gulf Coast. I wish I could recall more about him. Seems like there were a couple of roommates with him on Cohn… But Armond (was in my mind) the soul of the Cohn St Coop. There was always talk of a storefront and I think by the second summer they made the move from Cohn Street to the building by the cemetery.”

-1974: Lee Barnes Cooking School opens

-1974: Hare Krishna Community (ISKON) purchases land in Mississippi for farm named New Talavan

-October 1974 : Opening of Whole Food Company at 7700 Cohen, New Orleans. Its mission was to be a grocery store featuring good, wholesome food. Sales doubled each year for the first four years. By 1978, the store (only 1100 square feet) was doing more than $1 million per year. Success was fueled by a committed staff who were all stockholders in the company. (From WFM corporate history)

-1981: Opening of Whole Food Company, Esplanade Avenue. WFC became the largest outside customer of Texas Health Distributors, the wholesale division of Whole Foods Market. (From WFM corporate history)

1984: All Natural Foods opens on Magazine Street. Operated by Michael Zarou, closed in 2003.

-1987: Eve’s Market opens, founded by Linda K. Van Aman and Claudia Dumestre. Eve’s was first located at the original Whole Food Company location at 7700 Cohn and then moved to Freret in 2001 after the landlord sold the building.  Closed after Katrina. Link to Linda’s recounting of the development of Eve’s Market.

-1988: Purchase of Whole Food Company by Texas company Whole Foods Market. According to WFM corporate history, in May of 1988, the Esplanade store became the sixth Whole Foods Market.

-(1994) First Parkway Partners Community Garden opens
According to the PP website, the organization was founded in 1982 in response to massive budget cuts to the New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways. Parkway Partners began its work by adopting out neutral grounds to citizens for maintenance.

PP Community Garden Directors: Kris Pottharst, Donna Cavato, Max Elliot, Hilairie Schackai, Macon Fry, Mario Taravello, Renee Allie, Susannah Bridges Burley…

Kris Pottharst identified the first new garden location for the Community Garden Project as being on Alvar Street, although existing gardens had also been added to the project. By 1995, the project identified 25 gardens as part of their network and that it had geown from “from 0 to 45+ garden sites within two years. Pre-Katrina, program featured almost 200 community gardens and was one of the largest programs of its kind in the country” (Kris Pottharst)



1995 garden for Dwight Mikey Stewart who killed July 19, 1994 by stray bullets which is part of the Community Garden Program of the Parkway and Park Commission. The garden is located at 3300 2nd street.

from a Jarvis Debeery 2010 column:

.. I’m standing in “Mikey’s Garden,” a small lot that was announced as a blooming reminder of a life cut short but has become just one more overgrown, unsightly mess. A man pedaling along Second Street asks me if my presence means the grass is about to be cut. Does he want the garden fixed up so passers-by can remember it as the site where an innocent little boy was killed? No. He wants it cut because, he explains, he can’t see cars approaching on Johnson if he’s riding on Second. Mims is disgusted at the state of the park and what he thinks it symbolizes: a city that raises its voice in anger and anguish when a child is slain, marks the spot in an act of remembrance and then forgets.


-1995: Crescent City Farmers Market at 700 Magazine opens. The market organization is housed at the Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice at Loyola University New Orleans by Blueprint for Justice editor Richard McCarthy and local activists John Abajian and Sharon Litwin.

-1996: Cafe Reconcile is founded on Oretha Castle Haley, opening as restaurant in (yr?)

-1996: Founding of Red Stick and Covington Farmers Markets

-1997: Chef Susan Spicer opens Spice Inc. “take-out food, bakery, and cooking classes. This became “Wild Flour Breads”, which is co-owned with Sandy Whann.” (Wikipedia)

-1999: Slow Food New Orleans chapter is founded, formed by Poppy Tooker. (Chowhound)

-2000(?): The Vintage Garden Farm @ ARC is founded. Later becomes the first certified organic farm in city.

-2001: Chef Anne Churchill does farm-to-table pop ups at Bridge Lounge.

-2001: Downtown Neighborhood Market Consortium formed by Greta Gladney to add farmers markets in 9th ward.

-2002: Food Not Bombs New Orleans founded. Started by Paul Gailiunas and Helen Hill after moving to the city in 2000 after working with FNB in Halifax Nova Scotia. It is a non-profit, volunteer run organization dedicated to providing free vegetarian meals to the local community, started as an anti-nuclear action against the Seabrook, New Hampshire Power Plant in 1980. “…I remember working with Helen Hill and “Food not Bombs,” and St. Joseph’s church about 20 years ago to redirect edible food “waste” from Whole Foods. Winn Dixie wouldn’t participate, instead they opted to crush their unsightly produce out back of their grocery. (social media post from artist Michel Varisco)

-2002: New Orleans Food and Farming Network founded. It was created by Jeanette Abi-Nader, Max Elliot, Anna Maria Signorelli, and Marilyn Yank joined by local activists Jeanette Bell, Pam Broom, Macon Fry, Ed Melendez, Kathy Parry, Hilairie Schackai, and Dar Wolnik.

-2002: New Orleans Food Cooperative is formed (storefront did not open until 2011.) The first meeting was held on 11/11/2002 and had 22 people attending and was hosted by John Calhoun.

-2002: Opening of Whole Foods Market, Arabella Station
In 2002 Whole Foods built a 28,000-square-foot store in an Uptown New Orleans location presenting New Orleanians with the reality that Whole Foods is not a small co-op or local store but a national corporation that is seeking expansion.

-2003: Jeanette Bell founds Fleur D’Eden Garden on Baronne, composed of an English Rose garden, a kitchen garden and an herb garden.  Mississippi-born Jeanette had moved to New Orleans after living in Detroit where she had founded Bell Floricultural Service in 1980.

-2004: ECOnomics Institute, the parent organization of Crescent City Farmers Markets creates the White Boot Brigade, a pop-up shrimpers market held at the height of the season. The goal was to protect the livelihoods of wild harvest fishers in the Greater New Orleans’ coastal waters from the onslaught of farm-raised seafood imports and natural and industrial disasters.

-2005: Closing of Whole Foods Market, Esplanade
In May of 2005, Whole Foods opens another large store, a 52,000-square-foot store in Metairie, announcing it will close the small Mid-City store in April of 2005. (UNO thesis, Nicole Taylor)

-2005: Opening of Savvy Gourmet on Magazine. This storefront served as a local purchasing hub for chefs after Katrina and a meeting place for food and farming work.

-2005 Laughing Buddha Nursery opens in Metairie; the first permaculture retail store in area.

-2005: Anne Churchill forms the Delicious.  A cooperative kitchen at her commercial space in Bywater where other entrepreneurs were invited to create their products and build businesses.

-2007: Opening of Satsuma Café in Bywater. Possibly the first casual dining restaurants with a locally-sourced ingredient focus.

-2007: Mary Queen of Vietnam  (MQVN)’s Viet Village Urban Farm project begins. Overseen by MQVN’s Father Vien Nguyen and Mary Tran MQVNCDC Director.

-2007: Development of Inglewood Farm, Alexandria

-2008: Opening of Hollygrove Farm. The farm, on the site of a previous commercial nursery is founded by Paul Baricos of Hollygrove CDC and Kris Pottharst, then head of New Orleans Food and Farm Network.

-2008: Announcement of Jack and Jake’s Food Hub

-2008: Sankofa CDC forms farmers market in 9th ward.

-2008: Little Sparrow Farm opens, becoming one of the first “microfarms” in the city. LSF was designed by its founder Marilyn Yank to serve as a demonstration site of the potential of single lot farming, to offer produce for sale to individuals and to intermediate outlets (restaurants/corner stores), and to set a standard for beautification of an empty lot for the recovering area.

-2008: Our School at Blair Grocery by Nat Turner forms

-2009: Backyard Gardeners Network is founded by Jenga Mwendo.

Our Vietnamese community, circa 2007


An essay I wrote soon after the storm about the amazing NO East Vietnamese community.

Turn off Grande Route St. John on to Gentilly Boulevard. Pass the Fairgrounds, the Bike Plus place on Paris, the Gentilly Terrace area with so many beautiful arts and crafts homes of upper middle class Creoles, then quiet Dillard University on the left, empty strip malls galore, (basically you follow old 90 the way your grandparents would when going to the North Shore and Biloxi) and then you pass under I-10 and you are really on Chef Menteur Highway.
Chef (as we call it, not really affectionately, more as an affectation of our parents word for it), is a mix of auto repair shops, small bedroom communities and as you near the Michoud plant, the Vietnamese community.

Have you been to the Vietnamese community in New Orleans east? Haven’t been? Not surprising, most have not, and asking them to get in the car at 6:00 am to go is too bizarre to even suggest. So, some never experience it.

Amazing. I started venturing out 4 years ago, when my work at the farmers market coincided with seeing it. Actually, Robert and Elizabeth of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse took me there first, and like so many New Orleanians-by – choice (aka not born here); they know the city very well. They explore every corner and have done so since the late 60s.
They drove me out there one morning about 6 a.m. and showed me the gardens that ring the canals, the houses with elaborate statuary in front and sports cars for the children in the driveway. We had Vietnamese coffee, wonderful. Strong and sweet. They explained the history of this settlement that has been built by the Catholic Church since the fall of Saigon, with a larger Buddhist community on the West Bank.

For me, the open market was the most fascinating part. Set up alongside storefronts on Alcee Fortier Boulevard (not much of a boulevard, and not sure anyone out here knows this historian from the early 20th century), it is a walk through another country.
Farmers and fishers stand or squat in front of their products that are unfamiliar to most Americans. Once in a while, you spot cilantro or water spinach or something else appetizing and fragrant, and then point and ask for a price. Everything is between 1.00 and 2.00. You walk slowly into the interior courtyard, looking at every display and listening to the life around you that could be 300 years past. At 7:00 a.m. the market kicks into overdrive with the mass attendees mingling with the less devout.

The nearby storefronts also need time from you; the mangoes, noodles, dried mushrooms are there alongside of sweets and unfamiliar sauces on the crowded shelves. My friend, Veda loves all grocery stores since her early years in her family corner stores; she can be here for hours and when they talk to her, it’s clear that they see a kindred food soul and give her incredible discounts. We always stop at the storefront with no signs or ambience in the middle of the market for the Vietnamese “poboy”; their sandwich that is a taste and texture treat, with pork, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, peppers, sauce. We buy 5-10 sandwiches to bring back and share with anyone we think deserves one. They always are amazed and delighted after eating the half or quarter we share with each.

Most outsiders and locals that venture here go to the bakery, Dong Phuong. Pork and water chestnut pastries, glorious bread (baked hourly), cinnamon rolls to take home. I have a calendar on my wall from there that I look at when at the computer; always makes me think of the homemade egg breads.

The levee breaks did their damage out there. But, true to their immigrant attitudes, they have begun rebuilding at an astounding rate. Their dynamic Catholic priest, Father Vien travels to Houston often to see his parishioners that have not shown up yet at Mary, Queen of Vietnam Church. He has big plans for Viet Town, and will take the time to tell anyone who can possibly help. We were invited for lunch with the staff at the church to talk; the priest has an energetic, can-do presence that one can believe in. He is ready to create this beacon of light for the region to see and draw from.
We’re there that day because my boss is a true believer in the power of markets and local economies to rebuild a world. He has been interested in making a bridge between our Italian, Croatian, French, Southern farmers world and this one for some time. He also understands that it is a genuinely exciting time to live in New Orleans, in between the heartbreak and exhaustion, if one can make things happen.
It occurs to me while listening to them that these two could end up being the fulcrum in lives of hundreds of families in the next 5 years.
They talk of small and big ideas, but mostly they talk about helping small entrepreneurs get back in first gear. They agree on sensible methods and partners and take their leave as if they were two musicians that have finished rehearsing for their big break. Understand each other’s rhythm and syncopation. Got it. Turns out funders are liking what they hear from these two, and are almost ready to put up. Big money to leverage small communities. Big ideas to let farmers get back to bringing that bitter melon to Alcee Fortier. Rebuild without city, state or (cough) federal help or awareness for the most part. We’ll be back out here many times.

All because of food.

( Vietnamese patriarch Father Vien shared a history in a video that I did for MarketUmbrella in 2009):

Parkway Partners says goodbye

With Appreciation to Our Friends, Supporters and Partners
November 12, 2019

Dear Friends, Supporters, and Partners,

Founded more than 35 years ago by Flo Schornstein when she was Director of the City of New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways, Parkway Partners has educated and empowered residents to improve the quality of life in New Orleans through the preservation, maintenance and beautification of neutral grounds, green spaces, playgrounds, parks, community gardens and the urban forest.

The Parkway Partners legacy is influential and robust. With you, our friends, supporters and

partners, we have laid the foundation for environmental responsibility and raised awareness of green education. These are vital components of a healthy, livable and sustainable community and the framework for a vibrant economic development future for New Orleans. Our work has become a national model for similar public/private partnerships that now flourish in communities around the country.

In conjunction with our partner, the City’s Department of Parks and Parkways, we are pleased to announce two final Parkway Partners urban canopy projects. Parkway Partners will provide trees for planting along two historic New Orleans locations: the Broad Street corridor and Armstrong Park.

Although our core mission remains a relevant force for and advocate of green space and trees in our community, the board has made the difficult but appropriate decision to conclude our organization’s services and programs. Our records will be housed at the Tulane University Archive, forming the Parkway Partners Collection. Our records will be available to inform future urban landscape preservation and other research.

From the beginning, the people of New Orleans overwhelmingly responded to our mission with encouragement, collaboration, contributions and volunteer hours. We extend a heartfelt thank you to all who have worked to make certain our mission was realized.

On Behalf of the Parkway Partners Board of Directors


Michael Karam

Michael Karam, President

Lindsey Labadie, Vice President

Beth Terry, Treasurer

Nathan Lott, Secretary

Flo W. Schornstein, Founder

Marjorie Esman

Denise Estopinal

Norma Grace

Beverly Katz

Ann E. Macdonald

Linda Newton

Kristi Trail

Wholesale Produce Houses

Recently, a FQ neighbor shared with me that Tyler’s Pride Produce had closed at # 67 French Market Place and that the location is now in use by El Gato Negro restaurant. Although not surprising news, I felt it deserved a post here because Tyler’s Pride was the last produce house operating at the French Market.


Even so the list of produce houses that still operate in the city is impressive. Unfortunately, not one of these companies has their family/company history on their site, but I found some data on the state’s website, and will continue to update.

A.J.’s: 3162 Chartres (owned by Benandi family, formerly Minnie and Papa’s)

Bubba’s: 400 Marigny (which has an instantly recognizable French Quarter/produce family last name at president, C.J. Marcello)

George’s Produce: Westbank (George Sr. had worked at F&M Produce at French Market, picture on Page 5

Mistretta’s: NO East

Louisiana Fresh (aka as Cusimano Produce): South Dupre Street

Matrana’s Produce: Westbank

Tyler’s Pride Produce: Kenner







CFSC National Conference: October 16-19, 2010

Short Courses and Field Trips

Friday, October 15

9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Trip: Outlaw Local Food? I don’t think so!(FULL)
11:00 am – Sat.
Trip: Returning to Our Roots: A Cajun Experience
12:00 – 4:00 pm
Trip: Revitalizing Main Street with Food (FULL)
4:00 – 6:30 pm
Course: Field Guide to Evaluation, Part I

Saturday, October 16

7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Trip: Cooperation is the Name of the Game
7:30 am – 12:00 pm
Trip: Food Deserts, Food Swamps & Food Access (FULL)
8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Trip: Fisheries, Food, and Environmental Justice
8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Trip: Lower Ninth Ward Food Projects
8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Course: Food Policy Councils: Getting Started, Moving Forward (FULL)
8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Course: Growing Urban Agriculture Through Policy Change
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Course: Food Safety and Liability Insurance Issues
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Course: Field Guide to Evaluation, Part II
1:30 – 5:30 pm
Trip: NOLA Urban Agriculture
1:30 – 5:30 pm
Trip: Growing Healthy Kids in New Orleans Schools
1:30 – 5:30 pm
Course: Food Policy Impacts

Field Guide to Evaluation

Jeanette Abi-Nader, CFSC
Michelle Kobayashi, National Research Center, Inc.

Amber Baker, Janus Youth Programs
Eca-Etabo Wasongolo, Janus Youth Programs

FRIDAY 10/15, 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM & SATURDAY 10/16, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

COST: $95.00

(cost includes Lunch and CFP Evaluation Handbook and Toolkit and TOOLS Only CD)

A comprehensive two-day intensive focused on outcome-based evaluation strategies, tools and analysis designed expressly for Community Food Project (CFP) grantees and other CFP practitioners. Come learn how to tell the story of your work’s impact. Trainers will focus on all stages of program evaluation and include innovative evaluation strategies and learning tools.

Food Safety and Liability Insurance Issues for Marketing to Institutions

Kristen Markley, Community Food Security Coalition
David Runsten, Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Steve Warshawer, Wallace Center/National Good Food Network
Glyen Holmes, New North Florida Cooperative
Christy Cook, Sustainability Support Sodexo
Vonda Richardson, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Programs
Cheryl Wixson, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Jennifer Hashley, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

SATURDAY 10/16, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM


This course will detail the findings of a CFSC project funded by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) regarding food safety and liability insurance barriers and possible solutions for producers marketing to local schools, colleges, and other institutions. Attendees will increase their knowledge of food safety standards developed by organizations representing limited resource farmers and learn what’s happening at the national level around food safety policies. Attendees will leave with strategies for assisting farmers in their region in developing supportive structures and collaborative solutions for meeting food safety and liability insurance requirements. Join CFSC and RMA project partners (Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and New Entry Sustainable Farming Project) in exploring and strategizing creative methods for supporting farmers in addressing these challenging issues.

Growing Urban Agriculture through Policy Change

Betsy Johnson, CFSC Urban Agriculture Committee Co-Chair
Cynthia Price, CFSC Urban Agriculture Committee Co-Chair
Martin Bailkey, Dane County Food Policy Council
Katherine Kelly, Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture
Megan Lott, CFSC
J.P. Muhly, Baltimore, MD
Andrea Petzel, City of Seattle
John Shaffer, The University of Memphis

SATURDAY 10/16, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM

COST: $35.00

This course will offer background information, case studies, policy status updates, and a wide variety of tools (from assessments to customizable materials to make one’s case) to help participants support and foster policy that encourages urban agriculture at the Federal, state, and local levels. Attendees are encouraged to attend the “New Orleans Urban Agriculture” field trip in the afternoon.

Food Policy Councils: Getting Started, Moving Forward (Food Policy Part I) (FULL)

Mark Winne, CFSC
Cindy Torres, Boulder County Farmers’ Market Association

SATURDAY 10/16, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM

COST: $35.00

Community food security practitioners are developing local and state food policy organizations – councils, networks, coalitions – across North America to coordinate their food system stakeholders and to influence food policy. The course will engage participants in a series of activities designed to increase their ability to organize and manage local/state food policy organizations. Attendees are encouraged to attend the “Making Food Policy Impacts” course in the afternoon.

Food Policy Impacts: Making the case for Healthy Economies and Healthy People (Food Policy Part II)

Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center
Sarah Hackney, Gorge Grown Food Network
Zoraya Bernadete Souza, Brazil
Sarah Franklin
Kathryn Strickland, North Alabama Food Co-operative
Regi Haslett-Marroquin, Rural Enterprise Center

SATURDAY 10/16, 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM

COST: $35.00

Community foods initiatives that are savvy about their local economy gain greater strength, because economics is often the basis for policy. This workshop highlights success stories from U.S. communities where local economic initiatives made impact. Visionary food and health policies adopted by cities in Brazil will also be featured. Attendees are encouraged to attend the “Food Policy Councils” course in the morning.

Returning to Our Roots: A Cajun Experience

11:00 AM FRIDAY 10/15 – 4:00 PM SATURDAY 10/16 (OVERNIGHT)


Since the mid-1700s, the Acadians have made their home in the area around the Atchafalaya River and developed one of America’s unique cuisines. Cajun food developed here, growing out of the bounty of the bayous and the climate of the region. Join us on this tour to explore the history of Louisiana agriculture, tour bayous, and be immersed in Cajun Culture.

On Friday, the group will meet at the hotel and drive to Lafayette to visit the Gotreaux Family Farm, where a family of 12 is raising a large variety of crops from tilapia to turkeys.  Young farmers who are reinventing Louisiana agriculture will  discuss their innovative projects. After a great dinner at the LA Seafood Housefeaturing Gotreaux products, the group will head to downtown Lafayette for a live concert.

On Saturday, the trip will head to the Lafayette Hub City Farmers’ Market and then   visit with a family that has been on the same land since the first Acadians arrived at Brookshire Farm.  After a visit to EarthShare Gardens to see their exciting work, the group will tour the Acadiana Cultural Center and head back to New Orleans.

Outlaw Local Food? I don’t think so! (FULL)

FRIDAY 10/15, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM


Journey into the heart of Bayou country to visit the Fonseca family that started Outlaw Katfish on Bayou Des Allemandes and get an intimate view of fishing in Louisiana. The Fonseca family has been influential in both the marketing and policy changes that allow sustainable traditional fishers to succeed in bringing Louisiana seafood to resident’s tables. Lunch will be provided directly from the Bayou and followed by a visit to a fish market in the city where many Louisiana fishers sell their products.  Participants will learn first hand how the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is dramatically altering the livelihoods and culture of the region.

Revitalizing Main Street with Food: Tour of OC Haley Boulevard (FULL)

FRIDAY 10/15, 12:00 – 4:00 PM


In the last five years, parts of Central City have experienced major revitalization projects, many of which are focused on improving access to healthy food. This walking tour will start with lunch at Café Reconcile, a non-profit restaurant that trains youth from the community, providing them with the skills for a future in the culinary industry. We will also visit the New Orleans Missions, Latino Farmers Cooperative, and the Mahalia Jackson Children and Family Center.

Cooperation is the Name of the Game: the Mississippi Farmers Co-op

SATURDAY 10/16, 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM


The Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (MAC) is a successful model of local farmers collaborating to provide fresh produce, meat, and prepared foods to schools, grocery stores, and casinos, among other institutions. This group will meet with members of a seafood cooperative and travel to Indian Springs Cooperative to meet with Ben Burkett, Director of MAC, and farmers who are a part of MAC.

Food Deserts, Food Swamps & Food Access in Urban Communities (FULL)

SATURDAY 10/16, 7:30 AM – 12:00 PM

COST: $35

Learn about the history of food distribution and business ventures in New Orleans on this tour of grocery stores and markets. The group will visit the Crescent City Farmers Market; Angelo Brocato, a century-old Italian ice cream and pastry business for a tasty treat; Terranova’s Supermarket, a family-owned market and butcher shop established in 1925; Rouses, a local grocery store chain; Hollygrove Market & Farm, an urban garden that sells local produce and prepared foods; and Jack and Jake’s, the newest local and organic grocery store.

Fisheries, Food, and Environmental Justice in New Orleans East

SATURDAY 10/16, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM


The largest urban wildlife sanctuary in the continental US is located in New Orleans East, a community under attack from environmental pollution. Beginning at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, participants will see the Viet Village Urban Farm and discuss the creative ways this community is building a sustainable food system. The group will also visit nearby community and backyard gardens and stop at the Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery, a famous bakery that serves French and Vietnamese pastries.

Lower Ninth Ward Food Projects

SATURDAY 10/16, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM


Jenga Mwendo, founder of the Guerrilla Garden, will lead a service project at her community garden and discuss food access projects in the Lower Ninth Ward. Participants will hear from the founders of the NOLA Food Co-op, a community owned grocery store opening in 2011, and tour the neighborhood see the efforts of many groups to rebuild a sustainable neighborhood.

NOLA Urban Agriculture

SATURDAY 10/16, 1:30 AM – 5:30 PM

COST: $35

With 66,000 acres of vacant land, urban agriculture is on the rise in New Orleans! Tour a variety of projects that are sprouting all over the city – Desire Street Ministries, Covenant Farms, Hollygrove Market & Farm, Little Sparrow, and Sun Harvest Kitchen, to name a few. Led by the New Orleans Food & Farm Network, the trip will illustrate how communities are working to improve access to healthy food.

Growing Healthy Kids in New Orleans Schools

SATURDAY 10/16, 1:30 AM – 5:30 PM

COST: $35

New Orleans schools are building gardens left and right. This tour will visit Dr. King Charter School in the Lower 9th Ward, Langston Hughes Academy Charter School in Mid-City, and the Edible Schoolyard in Uptown to see examples of school gardens. Participants will enjoy a cooking demonstration at Edible Schoolyard New Orleans and discuss the benefits of teaching kitchens in schools.


Continue reading “CFSC National Conference: October 16-19, 2010”

2005 meeting on Esplanade WFM future

This meeting and many others like it were undertaken because of Whole Foods Market’s decision in 2005 to close the 3135 Esplanade Avenue location. The neighborhood was very concerned, especially with the announcement that the sale of the building would include a non-compete clause so that other grocery stores could not operate there for some years, even though the building had contained a grocery since around the turn of the century.




Meeting to Discuss the Future of the Whole Foods Site Attracts 140 Neighbors

A neighborhood town meeting took place on February 19 at the Holy Rosary cafeteria to discuss the future of the Whole Foods site. Over 140 individuals attended the meeting, an overflow crowd that exhausted all available chairs. The Austin-based company announced in January that the Esplanade store would be closing in April. According to those involved in the organization of the meeting, Whole Foods Market’s CEO John Mackey has offered to allow neighbors some involvement with the review of bids for the property, which is supposed to be listed for sale in the next few weeks.

The meeting was chaired by Robert Thompson, co-owner of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, who gave some background history of the closing of the store. Next, Darlene Wonik discussed a survey that she had taken regarding what grocery items neighbors want in a store. The first guest speaker was Mike Zarou, owner of All Natural food store. Mr. Zarou said that in order for him to open a business at the present Whole Foods site he would need to own the building. He said that if he had not owned the building on Magazine Street, where his previous store was located, which was directly across the street from the Uptown Whole Foods, he would have had nothing to show after 19 years in business. French Quarter grocer Cosimo Matassa addressed this sentiment, saying that the expected high sale price would make it very difficult for most businesses to make a profit at that location. Two other grocers, Lakeview Fine Foods and Canal Blvd. Super Market, who were invited to the meeting did not attend. Larry Schmidt, a representative of the Trust for Public Lands, discussed the possibility of having Whole Foods donate the property to the Trust. The property would then be transferred to a non-profit entity that would operate a community business. Many in the audience reacted positively to this possibility. John Calhoun of the New Orleans Food Co-Op said, “The only way the community can get what it wants is to own the shelves.” Many approved of this message, and one individual in the audience urged Mr. Calhoun and his organization to purchase the Whole Foods site. However, Mr. Calhoun stated that the Food Co-Op had but a few thousand dollars it its account. Tommy Usdin, President of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, offered his organizations resources to help determine what the neighborhood wants at the Esplanade site. A second meeting will be held sometime in March.

2002 Gambit Letter from All Natural Foods

Natural vs. National

I appreciate the cover story, “Farm Futures,” written by Sara Roahen in Gambit (Dec. 3). We at All Natural Foods have promoted organic food for over two decades. It is important that people are informed about organic food as an alternative to the chemical-laden food which is commonly available in the mass market.

Since 1994, All Natural Foods has carried 100 percent organic produce. We have been the organic stronghold of New Orleans, yet we were not interviewed or even mentioned in the Gambit article. This article came out two days before the opening of Whole Foods’ new store on Magazine Street. What better advertisement for their opening could they have asked for? Does this national chain need public relations assistance from Gambit?

I remember when Gambit started having national advertisers. This “local rag” was changing. Now, Gambit appears to be supporting Corporate America through editorials, ignoring long-time local businesses. TheGambit of old might have had a feature article about the importance of keeping local businesses alive with the influx of national chains into the city.

As Gambit marches into the future hand-in-hand with Corporate America, our small businesses of New Orleans need local journalistic support. Perhaps those of us who hold on to those things that give New Orleans its charm and flavor do so in vain.

–Michael Zarou

Owner, All Natural Foods

Maurice Ruffin’s “Taking of Freret”

From author Ruffin’s piece for Southern Foodways journal Gravy:


Darlene Wolnik talked to me about how what we eat has been altered. She explained how mirlitons represent my changing hometown. “Back when the city had hundreds of chain-link fences, mirliton vines thrived and could be found everywhere. Our grandparents stuffed shrimp in them and made it a holiday. Once those chain-link fences were torn down for high wooden walls, the mirliton had nothing to hang on and largely disappeared.” Darlene had pinpointed the connection between the choice of so many New Orleanians to build fences you could see through versus high-collared bulwarks to blot out the world. A desire to isolate killed the mirliton.

My grandparents’ house in the Lower Ninth Ward had chain-link fences, as did the houses of many of my aunts and uncles. They all included mirlitons in their toolbox of soul food ingredients. My parents and my mother-in-law also made great stuffed mirlitons, which looked like oversized green tulips crammed with a beef, shrimp, and vegetable dressing. Many an afternoon, I sat at their tables chomping on the savory, palm-sized treats. You could blindfold me, and I’d be able to tell you which oven they came from. My family scooped out the innards of the vegetable and stuffed it with a mix heavy on the beef, like hamburgers on a vegetable bun. My mother-in-law’s were based on her mother’s recipe. Their mirlitons were mostly breading and shrimp. Much more delicate than what I grew up on. I loved them all.


Look for Ruffin’s new book, due in January 2019