February 16, 2015

Recirculating Farms Coalition Awarded USDA Farmers of Tomorrow Grant

Julia Ramsey

Julia Ramsey

CLF Guest Blogger

Recirculating Farms Coalition

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden during a visit to Recirculating Farms Coalition.

At the Recirculating Farms Coalition, we continually work to support development of and collaboration in water-based, eco-efficient farms—and on February 2, we got some very exciting news!

We’ve been awarded a New and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support training and mentoring for urban farmers in innovative growing methods like recirculating hydroponics, aquaculture and aquaponics, combined with traditional soil-based farming. AND the announcement came with an in-person visit from USDA’s Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and various USDA staff from Louisiana and Washington, DC! Read USDA’s press release here.

The RFC is a national non-profit organization, headquartered in New Orleans, that supports and promotes soilless recirculating farms – i.e. hydroponic, aquaculture and aquaponic systems – along with more traditional soil-based growing for fresh, healthy, local produce. We provide free training, support and resources to empower communities in growing their own local food and creating stable jobs in green businesses. Their New Orleans site has been open since September, using both raised beds and aquaponic systems to produce tomatoes, herbs, microgreens and more.

Deputy Secretary Harden, accompanied by Louisiana and Washington, DC staff, toured the RFC’s community garden, spoke with food and farm project leaders, and enjoyed assorted treats prepared with ingredients from local farms.

Shout out to the various local farms and food businesses that provided food for our menu:

7th Ward Boys and Girls Garden – 7th Ward, New Orleans
Capstone Community Gardens – 9th Ward, New Orleans
Grow Dat Youth Farm – City Park, New Orleans
Growing Local NOLA – Central City, New Orleans
Happy Hen Farm – St. Rose, LA
Inglewood Farm – Alexandria, LA
Landry-Poche Strawberry Farm – Ponchatoula, LA
Locally Preserved – New Orleans
Schwars Citrus – Braithwaite, LA
VEGGI Farmers Cooperative – New Orleans East

The Deputy Secretary spoke to a diverse crowd of farmers, educators, community members and press on this initiative to train, mentor, and enhance the success of future farmers and ranchers. See the video here.

“As new farmers and ranchers get started, they are really looking to their community for support. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program empowers these farmers and ranchers to bring innovative ideas to the table when it comes to addressing food security, creating economic enterprises, and building communities,” said Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden.

Our Executive Director Marianne Cufone followed with thanks and appreciation for the grant, the visit and for everyone who works so hard in the food farming community:

“I want to first thank Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and the rest of the USDA folks for coming here, to New Orleans, to make these announcements. Highlighting our community and supporting training and mentorship in farming here is so important for us all to have access to healthy fresh affordable food, and for our farmers to be both ecologically and economically sustainable. We are very excited about being part of the New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

The RFC was especially thrilled to be awarded this grant because it allows us to teach both soilless water-based and more traditional soil based growing methods together, expanding agriculture opportunities in urban areas and other places where soil may be too rocky or contaminated or space too small to grow using only traditional in-ground methods.

There are so many innovative, amazing projects and programs in food and farming that you all make happen – I look forward to us all sharing them this morning with each other, Deputy Secretary Harden and the rest of the USDA staff. Thank you so much for all that you do!”

You can see more pictures from the event on the Recirculating Farms Facebook page and read our press release about the event here.

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