4. Covenant Farms: Making Urban Ag Work
Founded: 2009 Size: Five sites, varying from one to five lots in size
Managed by: Covenant House
Location: Treme and Midcity
There's one thing about farming that is indisputable: It's hard work. That alone made urban farming a good candidate to add to Covenant House's existing jobs and social enterprise programs for homeless youth. But there's a stealth objective too, says Michael Kantor, who oversees the group's urban agriculture program: Getting the young adults, most of whom are parents, to develop a taste for healthy food. "We want to get these kids to be able to go to the grocery store and pick out herbs and vegetables and know what to do with them," Kantor says.
That's not to say they don't focus on business when it comes to farming. Youth in the program learn the life cycles of different crops, how to deal with composting and soil fertility, how to plan a garden and how to manage it; some go on to earn horticulture licenses, freeing them up to work in the landscaping industry. Much of what they grow ends up on high-end restaurant tables, of course, but it also trickles down into students' meals. In September, when the season's first vegetables came in, everyone sat down to grilled pizza featuring herbs, fruits, and vegetables from the gardens.
It may well be working. "I ain't never had pizza with fresh herbs and fresh vegetables, not like that," said James Williams, 20, about the cookout. Though he's worked in restaurant kitchens, Harris said the meal taught him something new about creative ingredient pairings. "We even had a pear pizza, too, a sweet pizza with some goat cheese. It was good."
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