Althea Sandrich 13 posts

Missing New Orleans

It’s strange to think that just a few short weeks ago, our class was spending the last few days of our Spring Break trudging through the muck and mud of the Woodlands Conservancy trails recording data and counting species. This experience has been one that I will never forget, and not in the stereotypical sentimental way that sounds, but in a real way. I feel like I helped do something during my time in New Orleans.   

We planted gardens for people who don’t have access to fresh food, we helped construct tubs for an organic farmer who provides food in a place that is widely known as a Food Desert, and we contributed to data that is changing the way people look at deforestation and invasive species. We got to experience true New Orleanian traditions. I am lucky enough to have experienced all of this with people I have grown close to in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.       

I learned about a city and a culture that I never would have been able to learn about if it wasn’t for this trip. I’m 26, and I’m graduating this semester. I am engaged and plan to get married in a few years. Without this class, I really doubt I would have ever been able to come to New Orleans and I know for a fact I would never have had such a rich experience.

Okay, maybe I’ll never forget this trip exactly in the stereotypical sentimental way it sounds. There’s something to be said for an experience like this one, though, and I think I’m justified in feeling this way. 

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?

Saturday Field Work

Today we went back to Woodlands Conservancy to continue our fieldwork. The purpose of us doing fieldwork at Woodlands is so we can count and measure the types of native and invasive species we see along the trail. We walk along every trail there, and every 50 meters, we walk 100 meters into the forest and measure what we see every two meters along the way.  

A Map of Woodlands

We started at 9am this morning and it is now 7:50pm. It was a long hard day of work but we are now being rewarded with homemade gumbo from Ms. Carol, one of the fine ladies we met at Capstone this past week. 

Grow Dat & New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

Today we visited a nonprofit organization called Grow Dat. This program creates opportunities for youth in the Louisiana area to experience real responsibilities of having a job, while also providing a useful service to the public. The following positions are available through the program:

  • Grow Dat Youth-The farm aims to create a healthy and supportive work environment for high school-aged youth from New Orleans who face limited job opportunities. 
  • Grow Dat Apprentice- This Grow Dat adult program is an opportunity for adults interested in advancing their knowledge and skills in sustainable urban agriculture to learn through hands-on experience, instruction and support from mentor farmers.
  • Volunteer- Individuals (ages 10 and above, minors must be accompanied by guardians) are welcome to help with farm tasks such as weeding, non-native plant removal and harvesting on select days during the 2015–16 farm season. 
  • Farm Share CSA-Farm Shares are a form of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a way for the community to become “member-investors” who receive a weekly portion of the farm’s harvest during the growing season. 


March Schedule of Activities


A view of part of the farm

We picked weeds and cleaned up some of the garden beds so that the produce can be harvested and enjoyed another lovely afternoon in the gardens.   

Basil, Lettuce, & Arugula


This evening we attended a show- 50 Shades of Miles. A true New Orleans event.  

Show Program


    Feedin’ Gators

    Thursday morning we woke up and had breakfast at the Woodlands Plantation and got a tour of the Plantation grounds, including an opportunity to witness the alligators getting  fed. 

    In the evening we went to watch Kermit Ruffins perform. We also got to see a Chinese Lantern display at the New Orleans City Park  


    Southern Comfort

    Wednesday night we stayed at the Woodland Plantation, and it was ideal. After a day of planting a garden from scratch, coming to this place was better than any of us could imagine. 


    The Main House


    The Porch



    On Tuesday we went to a place called Capstone, located in the lower 9th ward of Louisiana. The lower 9th ward was one of the most dramatically damaged places after Katrina, and there is a very serious problem concerning food availability there because of that damage. The existence of a farm in a place like this would be special on its own, but what makes this place even more special is that all the produce grown here is grown through a process called aquaculture 

    Greenhouse at Capstone


    Foundation of a House in the Lower 9th Ward

       It’s amazing and really inspiring, actually, to see the ways in which New Orleans citizens have answered back to such devastation. 

    Monday field work

    Our field work continued on Monday after we finished our first trail.   


    Sometimes, especially in the field, you do what needs to be done in order to identify plant species. 

    Sunday Field Work

    So a big part of the work we are doing here is dividing up parts of the Woodlands Trail, and counting/measuring the amount of invasive species (Chinese Privet, Tallow, and Chinaberry) that is visible throughout the forest. By breaking up into teams and dividing the forest up into transects and recording what we see.   

    Recording Sheets


    What makes our work so crucial is that students from our school have been coming for ten years to study the impact that invasive species, hurricanes, and humans have had on this landscape.  

    Jay and Patrick walking the trail


    Mildly in love

     Our Saturday started the way all good Saturday’s start–with a six course meal. 

    We arrived at the New Orleans School of Cooking early in the morning and walked to the local farmers market. On our walk, our guide and head chef Michael, told us about the importance of food and culture in any city’s history. We learned the true meaning of creole. We were split up into groups and each group made a portion of the meal.  

      After our amazing meal, we were let loose in the French Quarter for the rest of the day. 

    Even though it was a bit rainy and wet, the French Quarter was one of the best days I’ve ever had. In New Orleans they have something called a second line, that is basically a parade in the street that is led by a marching band. They do a second line for weddings, births, holidays, even funerals. After about an hour of all of us going our separate ways adventuring through the French Quarter, a second line was marching with their band through the middle of the street. 


    After this day, I thought there wouldn’t be much more excitement. There couldn’t possibly be more excitement, right? 

    Maybe excitement isn’t the right word, but I fell mildly in love with John Boutte. 

    Here is a link to him performing one of his songs at Jazz Fest, that actually is the theme song for an HBO series Treme that, of course, takes place in New Orleans. 

    ‘Twas a day well spent, dousing myself in culture. A great transition into how we will be spending the rest of our time here–doing fieldwork! 

    Stay tuned…