Community Garden addresses food desert in MLK neighborhood

Growing Strong

Beside a busy Shreveport street a peaceful oasis has sprouted… a 1 1/2 acre community garden.

“Yellow squash, butternut squash”

Cenerica Smith from Caddo Parish Parks and Recreation gives us a tour of the department’s latest project along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

“Caddo Parish Parks has an initiative now to go into areas that have food deserts and provide community gardens, urban farms so the citizens of those communities will have a viable food source,” said Smith.

A food desert is an area with limited access to healthy affordable food.

According to Shreveport Green, there are 27 food deserts in Shreveport.

“It cost 80 dollars and we’ll get 700 dollars worth of produce,” explained Smith.

Not only does this economical garden provide healthy and organic produce, it’s also sustainable. Smith uses rainwater to irrigate the crops.

“We dug around 20 foot long trenches, filled it with cedar wood chips,” said Smith. “The trenches with the wood chips actually hold the moisture from the rain.”

Neighbors, students and volunteers work the land.

“And we’ve also partnered with the Caddo Parish Attorney’s Office with the Diversion Program where juveniles and adults come in and earn community service hours,” said Smith.

This fall there will be more to do. Caddo Parish is partnering with Southern University Shreveport. to create a two acre urban farm down the road.

“It will be great for parents and children to learn where their food comes from,” said Smith. “See the whole growing process, harvest it, take it home.”

Neighbors will participate in gardening workshops and enjoy farm to table dinners.

“We’re going to have a big farm to table day with our fresh greens; cook the greens on site; have everyone bring their fried chicken their cornbread their drinks and we’ll just have a good time on the farm.”

Volunteers must work in the garden in exchange for produce during harvest time. However, Cenerica is reaping more than fresh vegetables.

“It’s exciting. It is exciting to have your vision come to pass. The neighborhood has seen this project from the ground up. They get to see the squash growing the watermelons growing. Everyone’s waiting for harvest.”

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