NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Recirculating Farms Coalition and the New Orleans Food and Farm Network announced they are building a new Urban Farming and Food Center in downtown New Orleans that joins innovative water-based recirculating farming with traditional soil-based growing. The organizations received major grants for the project from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and the Claneil Foundation, as well as other donations. The Center will be a hub for research, education, training, and community interaction on growing, marketing, and preparing healthy food in the city and beyond.
"We are so appreciative of all the support for this project," said Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition. "The new Center is about empowering people to grow healthy fresh food for themselves and for sale at affordable prices to their neighbors and communities, creating green jobs and preparing delicious, nutritious meals. We expect it to be a catalyst for personal and community farms and local food here in New Orleans and all around the country."
The core of the Center will be a farm that employs cutting-edge agricultural techniques for urban settings, including recirculating aquaponics, which combines hydroponics (growing plants) with aquaculture (raising fish). Fruits, vegetables, herbs and fish grow in naturally cleaned, continuously recycled water. The Center will also have a community garden, with raised soil beds and fruit trees.
Sanjay Kharod, Executive Director of the New Orleans Food and Farm Network, explained, "We want to incubate neighborhood-led projects and the regional food economy by working at all scales, in backyards, on city lots, and with a network of commercial farms, to promote food justice. The new Center is an integral part of all this — as a training center, a hybrid model of a joint market and community farm, and a showcase of sustainable alternatives in urban agriculture. This is only the beginning of what we can achieve together."
While New Orleans is famous for its unique cuisine, fresh healthy food is not always accessible and affordable for everyone. Louisiana has the second highest obesity rate in the country and New Orleans is one of the worst food deserts. The new Center has plans to help change this. The Center's farm will source fresh food to local distributors, restaurants and grocers, and direct to consumers through an on-site farmers' market. It will also offer a wide range of farming and farm-to-table cooking classes, programs for youth and seniors, demonstrations, lectures, and presentations. The Center will host special events too, like harvest dinners.
In addition to funding, the project has drawn much praise, excitement and in-kind support.
"The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is excited about the creation of this urban farming and food center," said Commissioner Mike Strain. "We plan to work collaboratively with the Recirculating Farms Coalition and New Orleans Food and Farm Network on this project that will educate the community and promote sustainable urban agriculture in Louisiana and beyond."
"Tulane City Center is excited about this innovative project that continues to build a strong and just local food system, and we look forward to working as a team to ensure it is carefully designed and beautifully executed," said Maurice Cox, the new director of Tulane University's renown community design program, the Tulane City Center, which will provide planning expertise for the new Center.
"This Center is an amazing collaborative effort that will inspire sustainable urban farming and healthy eating and lifestyles," Cufone said.