NEW ORLEANS—For about a decade, a garden has been growing in New Orleans East, that supplies farmer’s markets and restaurants with produce. The VEGGI Farmers Cooperative is worked by farmers who used to work in the local seafood industry.
In 2010, the BP Oil Spill, resulted in the leaking of 200 million gallons of crude oil in the off shore waters of Louisiana. The local wildlife and overall ecosystem was affected for miles. The fishing industry took a big hit.
Khai Nguyen is the Program Manager of VEGGI and says, “All of those people were affected in some way, especially the fisherman and shrimpers. A lot of people in this Vietnamese community were in the fishing industry, so we tried to figure out a way to help them earn revenue. A lot of people in this community have farming or fishing experience, from Vietnam, even before they moved to the United States. Growing food is in their DNA.”
The garden may have had it’s roots in oil, but the story is much older. VEGGI is part of the overal story of the culinary legacy the Vietnamese community has in New Orleans’ life, culture and cuisine. Khai Nguyen says, the farm is the effort of the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, an organization created shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
Presently, there are only about five farmers left from an original 15 farmers. However, the garden still produces about 10,000 pounds of produce a year that is sold at famers markets and local restaurants.
To combat the difficulty of selling produce to recovering and closed restaurants and markets, during a pandemic, VEGGI sells produce boxes to the general public. The coronavirus is a new problem, but being resilient is something New Orleans is quite proficient at. The Community Supported Agriculture, “CSA” boxes contain fresh produce and NOLA-made products from collaborating businesses and organizations. You can place an order for a box by clicking here.
Khai Nguyen says, “now that the farmers markets are back open, we are doing really well. People realize the importance of supporting local healthy food. It’s a reminder of how food heals and brings people together.”
VEGGI sells produce at Refresh Farmers Market on Mondays from 3-6pm; at the Crescent City Famers Market on Tuesday from 8-12pm; and Thursday at the Lafitte Greenway Market from 3-7pm.
To donate money to the mission of VEGGI Farmers Cooperative, you can do so by clicking here.