SPROUT NOLA: Growing Entrepreneurs

Mondays at the Refresh Farmers Market in the Treme-Lafitte area of New Orleans are for more than “making groceries.” They’re an opportunity to take part in a thriving community food system.

There are the growers, from the backyard gardener selling bunches of flowers, to the small local farmer with just a few tomatoes to bring to market, to the established vendor with her own table full of persimmons, satsumas and winter squash. 

There are the shoppers, some of them members of the neighborhood long challenged by low food access. 

And there are the community organizations, including SPROUT NOLA—hosts of this Refresh Market—that are doing the work to help the community achieve food sovereignty.

Fighting for Food Sovereignty

The mission of SPROUT NOLA is broad by design: “If our goals are achieved as an organization … people would have the right to produce and build wealth and thrive off the growing and selling of food as individual community members, instead of just having better access to choices,” says Margee Green, SPROUT NOLA’s executive director.

To that end, SPROUT focuses its many programs on three main goals—providing training and technical assistance to beginning farmers and gardeners, helping local growers sell their bounty through farmers markets, and partnering with other organizations both locally and nationally to push for agricultural policies that advance land justice.

Rooted in the Community

SPROUT NOLA grew out of a community garden co-founded in 2012 by a pair of neighbors and urban farmers (one of them, Emily Mickley-Doyle, serves as the organization’s board chair). “It’s been a neighborhood effort since Day One,” says Green. Today, SPROUT’s Refresh Community Garden, as it’s now known, is 30 members strong, with some growers selling the fruits of their labor at SPROUT’s Refresh Farmers Market held weekly across the street.

A Market With Meaning

Increasingly, through its farmers' market and related programs, SPROUT is removing barriers to entry for would-be food sellers. Now, neighborhood growers with offerings as small as a bushel of beans or some jars of kimchi can pool their wares together with other small sellers at SPROUT’s Truck Farm Table, a shared stall with a permanent spot at the Refresh Farmers' Market as well as at the Crescent City Farmers Market, with which SPROUT partners.

“Truck Farm Table allows farmers who might not have the capacity to be at market to drop off their products and produce. We sell them, and they can still reap 100% of the benefits,” explains Erica Sage Johnson, markets coordinator. Participants take turns manning the table and selling for other community members, which also gives them the experience of one-on-one interactions with customers.

The aim, says Johnson, is for these growers to “graduate,” turning that experience and exposure into an opportunity to have their own table at a farmers market. Adds Green, “Our goal is for people to get too big for us, to be too cool for us.”

Guided by Kellogg’s African American Resource Group and our wellness brands Kashi, Eggo, MorningStar Farms and Special K, Kellogg has launched “Black History Every Month: A Call for Food Justice,” shining a light on the barriers to food justice and elevating the work of local heroes fighting to remove them.

As part of this commitment, Kellogg is making a $10,000 donation to Sprout NOLA, to support its work toward building a better food system in the city of New Orleans.

Says Executive Director Margee Green, “We believe building community power relies on collective work. We all play a different role in our food system, and we’ll be using Kellogg’s generous gift to share with other organizations working for food sovereignty. There were so many who came before us and paved the path so many new and bright ideas. We can’t make change alone—we have to lift each other as we do this work.”

You can help these food justice organizations by visiting their websites and educating yourself more on the inequities of food distribution. Pledge to make a difference by volunteering your time or offering financial support. The fight for food justice begins with each of us!

To draw further attention to the work Sprout NOLA and its partner organizations are doing to achieve food sovereignty, Kellogg commissioned artist Loic Ercolessi and Street Art for Mankind to paint this mural featuring Black food pioneers on-site at Christian Unity Church in New Orleans.

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