Grow Dat Youth Farm
Food & Drink
As we toured the terrific urban farm and facility of Grow Dat Youth Farm, our guide, Sean Winford, explained not only the agricultural operation but also the importance of the place itself – both to him and to the organization. It’s a beautiful spot in the heart of New Orleans’ City Park, a pleasant oasis largely tucked away from view complete with farm plots and an adjacent lagoon. One that gives refuge to numerous bird species and more.
Sean explained that he often comes to the edge of the lagoon to eat lunch and check out the wildlife while enjoying the peaceful setting it provides. Sean, who started as a high school aged participant in the program, one that teaches local youths leadership and life skills through the meaningful work of growing food, has remained connected to the organization. He is now a crew leader taking on more responsibility with the farming as well as demonstrating leadership to the younger youth participants. Currently nineteen years old, he talked of going to college. His presentation, pride, and soft-spoken confidence with which he described Grow Dat and what it has meant to him was admirable.
Program participants come from a diverse set of backgrounds. They develop skills and knowledge, alongside leadership, that include agriculture and farming, public speaking, business, food sovereignty, and the value of producing food. Much of the produce is provided it to the community and local businesses through various means. This also creates learning opportunities for the program’s participants.
Sean Winford (center) of Grow Dat Youth Farm.
Photograph by Bryan Dias, NOLADrinks
As we finished the tour, Sean led us to the area where would dine al fresco and family style as part of their “Dinner on the Farm” fall series. The long table was located near the lagoon and was beautifully decorated. It was a setting that seemed so much more bucolic than one would expect to see anywhere within NOLA city limits.
The meal we attended was the first of three for the season. Grow Dat has partnered with noted restaurant groups to put on these fundraising dinners. Though the idea is to raise money for the organization, part of the purpose of the events is to allow visitors to connect with the program, its people, and the physical space that is the farm. I overheard many guests indicate that they had come to City Park numerous times, some on a very regular basis, and had either never been to Grow Dat or didn’t even know it was there. It was our first visit to the farm and certainly won’t be the last.
Program participants come from a diverse set of backgrounds. They develop skills and knowledge, alongside leadership, that include agriculture and farming, public speaking, business, food sovereignty, and the value of producing food.
For our event, Grow Dat partnered with the LeBlanc+Smith Restaurant Group, owners of Sylvain, Meauxbar, Cavan, and Barrel Proof. They brought out the all-star team to staff and create the dinner. This was not a catered affair where food was brought in pre-prepped offsite, but instead was prepared fresh on the farm. The event opened with passed hors d’oeuvres made by Meauxbar Executive Chef, John Bel as well as French 75’s and Old Fashioneds provided by Liam Deegan, proprietor of Barrel Proof. Wine and beer were on-hand served up by Cavan Beverage Director, Isaiah Estell, and newly minted Meauxbar Head Bartender, Gillian White. From there (with cocktail in hand), we took the tour led by Sean.
Grow Dat Youth Farm Dinner with the LeBlanc+Smith Restaurant Group (photos above). Touring the farm with the team (below).
Photographs by Bryan Dias, NOLADrinks
After being seated, dinner commenced. We were surrounded by a fun group and enjoyed interacting and sharing the family style meal with our table neighbors. The salad course, featuring fresh greens, cauliflower, and more with a preserved lemon vinaigrette, was created by Martha Wiggins, Executive Chef of Sylvain. The main course, a delicious barbecued shrimp and grits served hot off the grill in large cast iron skillets, was prepared by Cavan Executive Chef, Ben Thibodeaux. Lastly, dessert, a wonderful caramelized rice pudding, was expertly handled by restaurant group Pastry Chef Ruby Bloch, who mainly operates from Cavan.
We chatted, after the meal with restaurant staff, guests, and the folks from Grow Dat (and helped polish off the wine…) We discussed what a terrific event it was and what a great organization Grow Dat Youth Farm is. We were invited to stop by anytime to check out the farm in operation. Certainly, we will do so. If anything, to interact further with the terrific kids involved like Sean and to see where they go in life. Be it in agriculture or something else, there is little doubt this program will serve their futures well.
The next dinner in the series is Sunday, October 22nd and is being put on in conjunction with the Link Stryjewski Foundation. The meal will be prepared by the folks at Cochon and Peche. The fall series concludes on November 12th will involve High Hat, Ancora, Primitivo, and La Boca. All dinners are $125/person inclusive and well-worth it. The series is sponsored by Fleur de Lis Rentals, Cathead Vodka, and NOLA Brewing Co. Visit the Grow Dat Youth Farm website for more info and to reserve tickets.
Below, you can listen to our commercial-free edited podcast from our recent show featuring Clara Lyle of Grow Dat Youth Farm. We discuss the program, the dinner series, and more. To listen to full show, please visit our podcast post here…
Here, on the map, you can find the location of Grow Dat Youth Farm as well as the establishments of LeBlanc+Smith.
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