An Unexpected Crop: Good Jobs for Youth

Founder and Director Johanna Gilligan released an op-ed in The Lens this morning on the importance and lasting impact of good food jobs.

“A strong stock market will do us no good if its foundation is an economy that further degrades the basis of the planet’s true wealth — its biodiversity, its water, air and soil. We have no choice but to see the links between our economic and environmental challenges and to address them as one.”

Read on here!

The Lens

Just released: Quarterly Report Spring 2014

Spring on the farm!

Click to download our latest Quarterly Report: QuarterlyReportSpring2014

Inside: a detailed look at our Leadership Program and the 40 youth currently working with us (a 30% increase from last year!), a debrief on this year’s 2nd annual Hootenanny, our take on “Kalegate”, and some exciting funding announcements. 

Spring Quarterly report

Food Writer Judy Walker checks up on Grow Dat

Food Writer Judy Walker of the Times-Picayune and checked up on our farm and Founder Johanna Gilligan last week and her great story is running online today.

Judy visited us four years ago when we first launched the project and were not even on our City Park site yet (remember our pilot year at the lovely Hollygrove Market and Farm?)— check out how we’ve grown since then!

Screenshot 2014-04-08 12.47.36


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!

Plant and Tree Sale! Saturday, Oct. 26

Grow Dat Youth Farm Plant and Tree Sale!
Saturday, October 26
150 Zachary Taylor Drive, between Pan Am Stadium and the dog park in City Park

Happy customer at last year's Plant Sale! Photo by Will Widmer

Happy customer at last year’s Plant Sale! Photo by Will Widmer

Stock your fall/winter garden with the best! Bring home your favorite vegetable and herb starts, cultivated by Grow Dat staff and youth interns. We will also be selling native trees and shrubs.

Youth will be leading tours of our eco-campus and farm throughout the day.

Vegetable & herb starts (3” – 4” cont. and 6-packs) include:

Trees and shrubs (5, 10, and 20 gal. cont.) include:
Japanese magnolia
wax myrtle
river birch
crepe myrtle

‘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.

Voices on Violence: Ties that Bind in City Park


This spring Renée Peck of NolaVie sat down with crew member Ashley Morgan and founding staff member Jeanne Firth to talk about the Mother’s Day parade shooting and gun violence: ‘Ties that Bind in City Park’.

The article is a beautiful rumination about the need to address our toughest social problems across the differences that can easily divide us. Learn about our Anti-Violence Summit and read youth reccomendations to the City on how to address violence here.

GNOF Pop Up Happy Hour on the farm TONIGHT!


Please join us this evening for a pop-up happy hour at our farm from 5:30-6:30pm rain or shine! The Greater New Orleans Foundation will co-host what will be a very fun event indeed. So come on out for sunset drinks and great conversation with folks interested in our work.

Hope to see you this evening!


Grow Dat Farm Stand this Saturday!

FARM STAND in action! Photo Credit Ariel Roland

FARM STAND in action! All natural celery,  zuchinni, squash, herbs, kale and glorious cherry tomatoes! Photo Credit: Ariel Roland

Visit the Grow Dat Farm Stand for the next two Saturdays!
Saturday June 15 & Saturday June 22
150 Zachary Taylor Drive

Farm Stand flier

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).

Calling all volunteers! Bi-weekly harvest on Tuesdays and Fridays

Youth Crew Members Storie and Cory harvest greens to be sold at Saturdays markets across New Orleans

Youth Crew Members Storie and Cory harvest greens to be sold at Saturday markets across New Orleans

Our Harvest Volunteer Days (for individuals) this spring/summer are:

  • Tuesdays (8am-11am)
  • Fridays (8am-11am)

Come help us harvest and prepare our produce for distribution. Volunteers will prep both our donated Shared Harvest and the crops youth Crew Members will sell at Saturday Farmer’s Markets around the city.

For Groups:
For group volunteers we suggest a $7 donation per Volunteer to cover supplies and staff time for the volunteer event. Please contact Jabari Brown to discuss bringing your group to Grow Dat.

We have various needs and opportunities for many other volunteer tasks – please email Jabari Brown, Volunteer Coordinator and Youth Education Specialist at for more information.

Come work in our beautiful fields - we appreciate your support of our work to grow food for New Orleans!

Come work in our beautiful fields – we appreciate your support of our work to grow food for New Orleans!

Hootenanny! Barn Dance Benefit on the Farm, Thurs, April 18, 7-10pm


Grab your dancing shoes to cut a rug for a great cause

Thursday, April 18, 7pm-10pm
Grow Dat Youth Farm, 150 Zachary Taylor Drive, City Park

The mission of the Grow Dat Youth Farm is to nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food. You can support these young adults who are growing food for New Orleanians by joining us for the Grow Dat Hootenanny. Proceeds from this Barn Dance Benefit will help us employ 25 young adults to grow 9,000 pounds of food this year!

What: Hootenanny featuring Bruce ‘Sunpie’ Barnes & the Louisiana Sunspots and the Small Batch String Band.  Square dancing led by caller Nathan Harrison will kick off an evening of revelry on the farm.

An ole’ fashioned Cake Walk will showcase tempting cakes from premier NOLA Pastry Chefs: Cochon from the Link Restaurant Group, Maurepas Foods, Domenica, and Boucherie.

When: Thursday, April 18, 7-10 pm

Details:  $15-$20 entry to dance the night away. Fat Falafel and La Cocinita food trucks, craft cocktails and ice cold beer on-hand. All tickets, food and drink sales benefit local teens growing food for New Orleans!

Sponsored by Slow Food NOLA

Purchase tickets now or at the door: 



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