A lot has happened in the short time since we last left off. It has been exciting at VEGGI Farmers Cooperative as we are transitioning into phase two of our plan, focusing on expanding from the backyard aquaponics systems to a larger commercial shared community farm site. We started off by identifying a one acre plot of land in our community that would be suitable for our plans. We found one right on the main street of the community, but we definitely knew from the beginning that it needed a lot of work to be transformed into the community farm that we wanted.
The plot was overgrown and neglected, was known to have snakes, flooded easily, had rocks littered all over, and also had no source of water. We were determined however, and like in the past, we would have to come up with creative ideas to overcome these issues.
We decided on sheet-mulching to create raised beds to overcome the rocky landscape and flooding risks. To do this, we needed 700 cubic yards of mulch, 20 tons of chicken litter, and a lot of shovels. Over the course of about 10 days, VEGGI staff and our farmers labored, shoveling and raking, repeating the ideal of all the cooperative members building each other’s farm plots, one by one, to create raised bed growing rows for all the farmers.
Several of our farmers have displayed incredible ingenuity by building trellises (to help gourds and other vegetables climb on and grow) out of the tree branches from the remaining trees on the site. They’ve also built floating platforms out of pallets to gain access to space in a pond in the corner of the farm. These are just a couple of examples of how they have really instilled their skills in our cooperative.
We are fortunate to have the farmers that we have; who are not only hardworking but are genuinely passionate about their work. Not only that, but each of our farmers really enjoys the type of work that they do. They also enjoy each other’s company and learn new techniques from one another. This kind of relationship has only strengthened our cooperative as farmers feel that they can easily bounce new ideas off each other and everyone’s opinions will be heard.
Inspired by our farmers who have engineered water catchment systems in their backyard farm systems, we decided to do something similar at this farm site. Because there is no running water to the farm, we will store it 2000 gallons at a time using large totes. From these totes the water will be pumped through a drip irrigation system to each row that we have built. Currently, we are in the process of finishing this step and have started seeding for our spring growing season.
We are very excited to use this new acre plot, which increases our growing capacity by 400% over what we were doing with just backyard systems and allows us to grow more varieties of produce. We look forward to providing our supporting restaurants and farmers markets in New Orleans with the produce from this farm very soon!
We have also begun composting on the site. We have partnered with community coffee shops, grocery stores, and neighbors to collect their compostable material. We’re hoping that this is just the beginning of an entire community-oriented composting project.