NIFA grant teaches beginning urban farmers innovative ways to grow fresh food
USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently visited the Recirculating Farms Coalition (RFC) and the food farming community in central New Orleans, at Carondolet and Felicity Streets.On Feb. 2, she informed RFC staff they are recipients of a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant from USDA and administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The grant supports RFC’s efforts to train and mentor urban farmers in innovative growing methods like recirculating hydroponics, aquaculture, and aquaponics, combined with traditional soil-based farming. According to Harden, this is an extra-special grant in that they can now provide Farm Training 101 to those who could not or were unable to pay. RFC can also now offer classes at night or during the weekend.
Harden saw firsthand how families in the neighborhood grow their food in raised beds and how kids learn about nutrition, growing food, and raising chickens; learning where eggs come from.
Harden also received the RFC community gardens grand tour from the Executive Director Marianne Cufone, spoke with food and farm project leaders, and sampled the treats they prepared with ingredients from local farms. Harden 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.
According to Cufone, highlighting their community and supporting the training and mentorship in farming was important because everyone must have access to healthy fresh affordable food, and farms must be both ecologically and economically sustainable. “We are excited about being part of BFRDP because it empowers new farmers and ranchers to bring innovative ideas to the table when it comes to addressing food security, creating economic enterprises, and building communities,” she said.
A fact sheet with a complete list of awardees and project descriptions is available on the USDA website. More information about USDA support for new farmers and ranchers is also available at www.usda.gov/newfarmers.