Extraordinary Gifts!

Avoid hum-drum holidays by giving meaningful gifts that support Grow Dat! http://goo.gl/DFv6G8

Avoid hum-drum holidays by giving meaningful gifts that support Grow Dat!

Last minute gifts? Please consider supporting Grow Dat’s Growing the Green alternative gift campaign and create an extraordinary holiday season! (Photos courtesy of our youth Fall Interns – over the weekend they did a little photo shoot with Site Manager & Outreach Coordinator Jabari Brown for the campaign.)

Place your online order by midnight on Thursday 12/19 to ensure USPS delivery of your ‘Thanks for Giving’ cards by 12/24. After Thursday night, donors will recieve emailed PDFs of the cards that they can print at home.

If you have already made a donation or are unable to contribute this year, please help us spread the word to your family, coworkers and friends.

Hope your winter is merry and bright!

In Gratitude,
The Grow Dat Team

Youth Speak: On Not Being Afraid to be Yourself

I loved working with the people here. Everybody is open minded. No one is judgmental. No one is negative. Everyone is uplifting all the time and I love them for that. Everybody in my crew was supportive of me. They said ‘you are not afraid to be yourself’, and that’s what I think people here were like. Everyone could just be themselves.

“I loved working with the people here. Everybody is open minded. No one is judgmental. No one is negative. Everyone is uplifting all the time and I love them for that. Everybody in my crew was supportive of me. They said ‘you are not afraid to be yourself’, and that’s what I think people here were like. Everyone could just be themselves.” -Youth Crew Member

Grow Dat creates a safe and rigorous environment that challenges young people while supporting them in their growth. Please join our Growing the Green alternative gift campaign to support our work.

Youth Speak: On Opening Up

“I learned a lot about speaking and speaking out in public, and taking
all the opportunities to open up to different people. If you don’t, you
will never know what they have to offer.”
-Youth Crew Member

Please support our work to build the next generation of leaders in New Orleans and beyond. Donate to our Growing the Green campaign today!

Sneak Peek: Lush Lil Plant Starts for this Saturday’s Plant Sale


Sneak Peek: Lush Lil Plant Starts for this Saturday's Plant Sale

Farm Assistant Sarah Howard just snapped this pic of some superstars who will grace the Plant Sale stage. Come to the Farm this Saturday, Oct. 26, 9am-2pm to stock your winter garden with these healthy and hardy vegetable and herb starts!

CANCELLED: Come meet our youth at the Fall Garden Festival in City Park this weekend!

We are sorry to announce that due to possible stormy conditions from Tropical Storm Karen, the Fall Garden Festival has been cancelled.


Grow Dat youth will be presenting at the Urban Farm showcase at the New Orleans Botanical Garden’s Fall Garden Festival this Saturday and Sunday. Youth will give demonstrations in making a raise bed, planting the fall garden, composting, and urban chicken keeping (cluck, cluck!)

Simultaneously, youth will be offering free tours of our farm site and selling beautiful trees! Enjoy a  wonderful day in City Park by visiting both the festival and the farm.

Grow Dat Youth Farm Tree Sale and Farm Tours
Saturday, October 5 and Sunday October 6
10am – 5pm
Grow Dat Youth Farm site,
150 Zachary Taylor Dr. located between City Bark and Pan Am Stadium.

Youth interns will be leading tours of the farm and eco-campus, and will be selling native trees and shrubs to benefit the program.

Trees for sale:
Japanese Magnolia – $40
River birch – $40
Wax Myrtle – $30
Crepe Myrtle – $30
Viburnum – $20
Cherry Laurel – $20
Holly – $20
Inkberry – $20


‘Help New Orleans Children Thrive’ joint statement by the Opportunity Youth Executive Directors group

The statement below is currently featured in the Times-Picayune online and was crafted by members of the Opportunity Youth Executive Directors group including Grow Dat’s Johanna Gilligan.

“Let Londyn’s death inspire you to help New Orleans children thrive”

This past week, we were once again devastated by violence as we mourned the loss of 1-year old Londyn Samuels and the shooting of her 18-year-old babysitter, who remains in the hospital. The young adults most directly impacted by this tragedy, Londyn’s mother, father and babysitter, had committed to making their own lives better, tackling the obstacles they faced and taking advantage of positive educational, economic and social opportunities.

Londyn’s mother was a graduate and current employee of Cafe Reconcile. Her father is a Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) program graduate and has stayed closely connected with YEP and his mentor since he completed the program. The babysitter is currently a student in YEP’s GED program, NOPLAY.
These three young people were doing everything that we could ask of them – they were on the right track – and yet, their lives were still shattered by violence.

Still reeling from Londyn’s death, we watched horrified as violence continued to grip New Orleans over the weekend. A triple shooting left an 11-year-old girl murdered and her 11-year-old cousin in the hospital.

These unconscionable tragedies must serve as a reminder to all New Orleanians that this kind of senseless violence is not acceptable and cannot continue. We cannot view this type of violence as a norm in our community. Everyone in our city is affected when a fellow citizen’s life is lost. We all have a role to play and a responsibility to work together to make our city a place where every life is valued, and all children have the chance to grow up without the fear of being killed.

Several years ago, the executive directors of 12 of the city’s youth-serving organizations decided to come together to form the Opportunity Youth Executive Directors group. We realized that we needed to work more closely together to ensure that we were supporting one another; sharing resources effectively; providing unduplicated, quality services; raising awareness about at-risk youth and facilitating relationships with caring adults who provide the breadth of opportunities and skills young people need, and deserve, in order to become happy, healthy and contributing adult citizens. Together, our organizations provide thousands of the most vulnerable young people in New Orleans with a broad range of services that include emergency housing, advocacy and legal assistance, intensive mentoring and case management services, tutoring, mental health counseling, vocational and hospitality training, GED and adult education, parenting classes and job readiness skills and placement.

Through our work, we see young people every day who are grappling with more than most of us can imagine, and yet they still work tirelessly for a brighter future for themselves and their families. We are with these young people as they celebrate milestones that range from receiving their GEDs, to enrolling in college, to completing self-improvement programs, to finding full-time jobs, to securing their own apartments. Sadly, we are also with them when they endure some of the most painful and heartbreaking losses one can imagine. We are beside them when they find the strength, grit and resilience to keep pursuing their goals and dreams, in spite of these setbacks.

It is unfortunate and unfair, however, that the nightly images of young people in our community are not of hope and opportunity and success. Instead, we see the images of young people in mug shots and at crime scenes that are emblazoned in our minds and make us angry, frustrated and scared.

These negative images are not representative of the vast majority of youth we work with and know. Given the choice, most young people want to better themselves and will take full advantage of these opportunities. They deserve our help, respect and most of all, they deserve to have us stand beside them and share the real images of who they are and who they want to become.

The future of New Orleans rests in the fate of our young people. Despite our sadness and anger over these most recent acts of senseless violence that have taken children from our community, we remain steadfast in our commitment to working together to provide youth with professional supports, quality services and unconditional love. It is going to take all of us, in solidarity, to provide our good and brave young people with the opportunities they need to grow and thrive.

We ask that all people do their part to interrupt this unthinkable cycle of violence plaguing our city by getting involved. Volunteer to tutor; hire an at-risk youth; reach out to a niece or neighbor in need; make eye contact and say hello to youth when you pass them on the street … find a way to help bring peace back to our community and our families.

Glen Armantrout III is chief executive officer at Cafe Reconcile. Melissa Sawyer is co-founder and executive director of the Youth Empowerment Project.

Other members of the Opportunity Youth Executive Director Group are: Lauren J. Bierbaum, executive director, Partnership for Youth Development; Jim Kelly, executive director, Covenant House New Orleans; Ronald McClain, president/CEO, Family Service of Greater New Orleans; Johanna Gilligan, executive director, Grow Dat Youth Farm; Dana Kaplan, executive director, Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana; Keith Liederman, CEO, Kingsley House; Janet Davas, Executive Director, Liberty’s Kitchen Inc.; Thelma H. French, president/CEO, Total Community Action Inc., Minh Nguyen, executive director, Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association-New Orleans; Flozell Daniels Jr., president/CEO, Foundation For Louisiana.

Youth Speak: On the National Youth Climate Exchange

NYCE Climate Fellows on the last day of the retreat in Pennsylvania.

“I am a climate activist”: NYCE youth Climate Fellows on the last day of the retreat in Pennsylvania.

For the last six months, three Grow Dat alums have worked as Policy Interns with the National Youth Climate Exchange (NYCE) organized by Global Kids. The NYCE culminated in a 3-day retreat outside of Washington, DC with youth activists convening from New York, DC, West Virginia and New Orleans. Attending the retreat was a powerful experience for all involved. Here youth report back back their experience and the connections they are making between sustainable agriculture, New Orleans and climate instability.

2013-04-05 14.06.57 copyI’m Joshua and I go to De La Salle high school in New Orleans, Louisiana. This spring I was hired to work with Global Kids and Grow Dat to help with the growing problem of our world’s eco systems falling apart. I joined Grow Dat to learn more about our eco system. I wanted to learn how to grow plants sustainably, and I knew that Grow Dat would teach us how how sustainable agriculture differs from industrially-grown food. I wanted to get involved with National Youth Climate Exchange because I believe in what they are working for: climate justice. I wanted to do my part to help with the NYCE mission and to learn more about our planet and the people who try and save it. After joining NYCE, I was inspired by all the youth who came from different places and the stories they shared. I was also inspired by the many enviornmental activists we learned about – their stories about how they risk and sacrifice so much to help their homes and the planet. I was also very surprised to hear about the tragic story of how coal mining is destroying the mountains and societies around them. I was un-aware of how coal let into the air and water supplies can cause many diseases to spread through communities, and that no one is doing much to prevent it.

The knowledge I acquired at the NYCE has helped me understand how important it is that we farm without pesticides at Grow Dat. Not only do pesticides affect our food and the people who eat them, but they can destroy the environment slowly over time as they infect the water and plants that animals need to survive. If we want to keep farming using clean methods then we also need to keep the environment clean. The climate greatly affects how our food grows. If the warmer seasons end faster or are too long it can cause foods to die before we can harvest them and limit what foods we can grow in New Orleans. We rely on the earth to grow our food and by destroying it we destroy our food supply and the quality of the food.
Going the NYCE showed me how I can help keep my town and its people healthy and aware of the problems. We can work together as a city to keep our food clean and healthy.

Amber Hi my name is Amber and I am a senior at New Orleans Science and Mathematics High School in New Orleans. I work at the Grow Dat Youth Farm where I will be an Intern again this fall. I got involved with the National Youth Climate Exchange (NYCE), because I wanted to know more about what was going on around the country climate-wise. I was never aware of the problems that other places were facing –  like mountain top removal – so when I learned about it I was very surprised. I never thought about how serious some of our enviornmental problems are. At the retreat I learned a lot but the thing that I took with me was that we as youth have a very powerful voice and all we have to do is use it to make what we want happen. Climate change is important to our work at Grow Dat because we use organic methods to grow vegetables. We do this so that we don’t damage the only land that we have. By us growing food for communities in New Orleans, there are less ‘food miles': the food is fresher and it doesn’t have to travel a lot of miles to get to the consumer. Local food reduces the use of fossil fuels for transportation.
It was amazing to work with youth from many different cities. I hope that we can meet again one day to talk about the progress that we are making in our communties.

Kamau I am Kamau and I am a Junior at Warren Easton High School. I worked at Grow Dat last year as a Crew Member. I am currently on staff at Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools and I sit on the Restorative Justice Committee. I am also the founder of Be a Helping Hand Foundation. I am currently working on music with my sister.
I had a very great time at The National Youth Climate Exchange (NYCE) retreat. Climate connects with agriculture in millions of different ways. Climate change alters weather patterns which has great effect on how we grow our crops or if we can grow the same crops at all. Below is the statement I wrote after attending the retreat which I shared with my school Principal, employers, environmental mentor and others.

“On April 4 – 7, I went to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. We The National Youth Climate Exchange or NYCE, learned about climate change. We learned about environmental problems in New Orleans and also problems elsewhere such mountain top removal. I met many youth activists, such as Londan, Herminia, Leslie, Makayla, Elmu, Redwan, and Samri. Many of those names don’t sound American: the NYCE is a diverse group of activists coming from Honduras, Mexico, Africa and Bangladesh, although we all now live in America. I also worked with New Orleans’ very own Amber and Joshua.

We shared personal stories about dealing with climate change.One climate story that really stood out to me was told by two teenagers from West Virginia who are activists with Build-It-Up West Virginia. Their story was about mountain top removal, which is the process of exploding mountains to mine out coal. Many West Virginians have well water, which comes from a well underground rather than city water. The well water where they live is contaminated with chemicals from mountain top removal. Many of these chemicals have caused people to develop cancer, asthma, and other breathing problems. Many of the people affected are kids. The chemicals are not only in the well water, they are also in the air. The mountains in their areas are disappearing: in their community there is only one mountain left. The youth also shared about their emotional struggle. They have been abused and have recieved death threats – because they want to make a difference. One of the girls shared that she was told that she was going to be killed if she went against coal mining again. They are only 15 and 18 years old.
The next story that caught my attention was from a 14 year old from Bangladesh who now lives in New York. He said that there was a huge river behind his house. Everyday he saw the river being filled with concrete. Eventually a city grew on the banks of the river. He said that once the city was finished, it sunk right back into the river. When it sunk it had killed many people, and now there is nothing left but dirty land.
Now I’m going to share our story. Because of the changes in climate from human wrong-doings, the Louisiana coast loses 1 acre of land every hour. That’s 24 acres of land lost each day. (This is about the size of 24 football fields.) In our eyes levees are a good thing, but that’s for protection against flooding. Levees also stop sediment from coming in to build new land. Sediment is moved from the Mississippi River out into the Gulf. New Orleans is a ‘bowl community’ meaning water will collect in the city if the levees break and we flood again. It is possible New Orleans would not recover. Solutions to these problems can be elevating homes, using solar energy, installing green roofs and etc. Doing these things will not only reduce carbon emissions but will also create better living.”

Youth Anti-Violence Summit

Grow Dat recently hosted a Youth Anti-Violence Summit on the farm in response to the shooting on Mother’s Day which deeply touched our Grow Dat community.

It was a day of reflection, sharing, and an attempt to envision a world different than the one we inhabit today. Filmmaker John Richie screened a section of his film Shellshocked and answered questions. Youth wrote letters to someone in their lives that had been touched by gun violence, and then shared their letters with another crew member.

Crew members were invited to create two kinds of trees: an unhealthy tree that maps systems of violence in New Orleans and beyond;  and a healthy tree that maps systems of individual and community-wide success, peace and happiness. Youth were encouraged to identify the roots of both trees, brainstorm what sustains the roots and helps the trees grow (the trunk), and what sort of leaves or fruit are produced by each foundation. As leaves fall from the trees and touch the earth, they become the soil that nourishes the roots, creating a system that is reinforced and recirculated over time.

Tree of Life

Tree of ViolenceTree of Violence

William Mupo from the Health Department at the Mayor’s Office shared the city’s plan to address violence, and listened to youth recommendations on what they think the city should do.

Grow Dat youth answer the question: What can the City do to improve New Orleans?

  1. Create more job opportunities.
  2. Make the physical environment nicer.
  3. Identify people involved in crimes and provide them with resources to change.
  4. Improve the NOPD.
  5. Intervene to try to stop retaliation killings.
  6. Create preventative solutions to violence: counseling, medical care, etc.
  7. Create a safe community place for teens and children.
  8. Create new teen activities in the city.
  9. More funding for after school programs.
  10.  More things like Grow Dat.
  11.  Rebuild the movie theater and malls in the East.
  12.  More parks.
  13.  Improve the school system.
  14.  Raise age range for park ball.
  15.  Build new, safe, and fun communities in the East.
  16.  Improve public school buildings and resources.
  17.  Stop selling guns (so people are unable to get them).

And they’re off: the National Youth Climate Exchange Summit


Global Kids Environmental Justice Institute 2012

This afternoon I’m boarding a plane with three Grow Dat Policy Interns – Amber Young, Josh Kemp, and Kamau Johnson – to attend the National Youth Climate Exchange (NYCE) in Pennsylvania.

Grow Dat is honored to join the NYCE, the latest Global Kid’s Human Rights Activist project. Youth from Grow Dat in New Orleans are participating in a 3-day climate action summit with Build it Up West Virginia and Global Kids students from NYC and Washington, DC.

Addressing climate change is key to us at Grow Dat because food system emissions account for  between 19%-29% of all total greenhouse gases. And agricultureaccounts for 80%-86% of emissions within the food system. Check out the infographics from CGIAR:

FoodSystemEmissions Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 12.58.31 PM

On our farm, youth grow food using sustainable and chemical-free methods. Our commitment to carbon reduction and environmental stewardship ensures that agriculture is part of the solution, rather than remaining a leading contributor to the problem.

To reduce our carbon footprint, most of the 5-month long fellowship is conducted via Google Hangout and conference calls. This summit is an opportunity for youth to get to know one another face-to-face. Atendees will spend the weekend crafting action plans for environmental justice work in their communities.

Youth in New Orleans know all too well the threat of sea level rise and the fallout of increasingly extreme weather patterns. Their voices are key to understanding the real impacts of a changing climate.

Stay tuned to see these young activists in action upon their return!

-Jeanne Firth
Grow Dat Program Specialist

Spring has Sprung: Grow Dat Crew Newsletter, March 2013



Ariel Roland, Masters in Social Work at Tulane and serving as our Youth & Alumni Coordinator, crafts beautiful newsletters that youth share with their families and schools each month. We thought you might like a peek at them, too!


Youth Speak: Making Greens

“My family is just really happy that I’m part of Grow Dat. I hear them talking on the phone to other family members, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, my baby be bringing home fresh vegetables and he knows how to cook and everything!’, which is so nice and encouraging.”
-Grow Dat Crew Member

Our annual Growing the Green campaign is in full swing – we need your help to make our goal. Support our health and wellness programming today!

Making collard greens and sautéed kale - youth cooking classes with local chef Ms Lanette Williams

Making collard greens and sautéed kale – youth cooking classes with local chef Ms Lanette Williams


Farm Pix: Grow Dat Youth Interns


Farm Pix: Grow Dat Youth Interns

Meet Amber, Deshawn, Melanie and Yasmin – our inaugural and extraordinary Fall Interns. Perhaps you’ve already made their acquaintance at a food justice speaking event around town, or on a tour of our farm. They come together from four different schools across New Orleans to grow food, continue to develop their leadership skills, engage in service, and advocate for change in our city.

Taken on the Bayou near Granny Oak right behind our fields in City Park, New Orleans. Photo by William Widmer.

Support Amber, Deshawn, Melanie and Yasmin today!

Growing the Green: Holiday Gifts that Support Our Work!

Give the gift of quality youth employment or fresh produce from our farm to those in need this holiday season! Our meaningful ‘Thanks for Giving’ cards are the perfect present for everyone on your list.

Donate by purchasing cards now!

You will be mailed beautiful cards corresponding to the amounts above to give as gifts this holiday season.

Jeanne Firth

Take a sneak peek at our ‘Thanks for Giving’ cards! Melanie, Jeanne, and Amber sell their meaningful holiday gift cards.

Click here to donate! 

Plant Sale and Party! Saturday, Nov. 3 on our farm

Come out to the farm for our first big event and show your support for Grow Dat’s work and mission. We guarantee you’ll have a great time!

10 am – 2pm
Stock your winter garden with the best! Bring home your favorite edible and ornamental plants, cultivated by Grow Dat staff and youth interns. Fall vegetables, herbs and pollinator attracting ornamentals will be sold.

12 pm – 5pm
Eat, drink and celebrate our farm! Join us as we kickoff our annual Grow The Green online fundraiser. Food trucks, music, and farm fun will abound. Tour our brand new eco-campus and farm, participate in sack races and other fall harvest games, and learn about how you can support our work of growing young leaders and healthy food for New Orleans. La Cocinita and Frencheeze will be on site selling delicious food, and we will have beverages for sale provided by our sponsors, Old New Orleans Rum Distillery and Rouses.

All proceeds from the plant sale and party will go to further our mission to nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food.

Our Fabulous Sponsors: