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NEA Planning Committee for Baton Roots - Updates

NEA Meeting #4

11 November 2020

Before beginning the meeting, a brief update was given on the $100,000 planning grant between LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio, BREC, Baton Roots, and the City of Baton Rouge. The grant’s purpose is blending public art and food security as part of the larger “Reimagine Plank Road” community development plan with a focus on the farm, development as public art space, and reaching full capacity in relieving food insecurity in our city while addressing ways to better engage with park infrastructure, businesses, and establishments on Winbourne and in the surrounding neighborhood.

Nicholas Serrano, Assistant Professor at LSU, discussed spearheading the lift on LSU’s side of the project in earnest come January. At Baton Roots housed at Howell Community Park by BREC (see 2016 BREC Master Plan of Howell Park), work will be done to renaturalize the hurricane creek and dry retention areas throughout the park through a series of student projects, employing landscape architects, architects, and civil engineering seniors to bring a wide breadth of talent to the project. This includes the great trees (such as live oaks) that naturally frame the 4 acres of Baton Roots.

The NEA planning timeline has been updated. In the spring semester, we will have one, possibly two committee meetings scheduled to present in-progress student work to receive feedback in development as well as after project completion. The goal is to develop a file master plan based on input from the steering committee, BREC, and Walls Project among others. Because construction is about to start at the park, it will be difficult to utilize the farm as a safe public meeting space at full capacity for the duration of construction. As the farm and park are still becoming an urban oasis, work will go around that as much as possible.

Work Group 1 will continue to focus on ideas for potential sites for public art, general opportunities on the 4 acres, exploring such ideas as LSU studios. Work Groups 2 and 3 continue to discuss how the farm can tie-in more effectively to connect the full 188 acres at Howell Park, connecting the farm with the surrounding community (events, churches, schools, civic associations, and businesses along Winbourne Ave), connecting the farm to the Reimagine Plank Road, JP Morgan Imagine Initiative, and larger redevelopment, and strengthen the farm to be a stronger partnership with the Food Insecurity EBR Coalition. Work Groups 2 and 3 will also catalog events and engagement opportunities. Kim Mosby from Work Group 3 mentioned that much of our past focus has been on how to use the park and what sort of spaces/facilities are needed. We’ve asked how has the park been used in the past, but what about the future? How can the farm become a better cornerstone of existing community events such as those at Church Point Ministries on Winbourne Avenue? Big pulls include fishing, free food (something as small as a snowball stand), and cooking facilities for teaching classes (Grand Cajun Cookoff using produce from the farm, fish from ponds, etc.). We will continue improving production quality and capacity, enhancing outreach and distribution, and enhancing existing programming.

How can the farm work seamlessly on a year-round and seasonal basis to maximize partnerships with BREC and enhance larger Howell Park programming? The farm and Howell Park can touch on other sites and programs like Capitol High School, Exxon Corridor, and educational pipeline and businesses on Winbourne Avenue. There are many schools in the area, some with aquaponics, and 160,000 square feet of building with BRCC Acadian.

The main missions are to teach people health and food literacy and sovereignty, distribute fresh produce to the community, and host meaningful events. According to Cheramie Gosnell with LSU dining, the executive chef loves community teaching and many chefs on staff would love to do outreach and help with catering events.

Geno McLaughlin asserted that a new $5 million grant will be huge in connecting the farm to the larger community through pocket parks and food hubs. There are many Plank Road pocket parks in the works. We have to be aware of flooding the market. For example, a Food Hub between Co-City BR, SUBR, and NEA could be seen as oversaturation.

How can we coordinate? We currently have Baton Roots Community Farm (4 acres at BREC Howell Park), Geaux Get Healthy with HealthyBR (7 zip codes in North BR/Mid City), and the Food Insecurity Coalition (EBR) with a larger focus on reducing food insecurity across the entire parish as well as data/research/policy work.

The development of a city-wide Food Security calendar with all food and farming related activities is in the discussion, citing the Louisiana Unified Coastal Community Calendar as an example. There are concerns about aggregating data and not burdening groups with calendar upload responsibilities. Email for more information.

Involving schools, especially charter schools, in ongoing efforts at the farm could increase student involvement with the farm serving as a STEAM incubator and teaching space. This also presents the potential for afterschool programs, getting kids out to help with labor, increasing the labor force, and building on education, much like the Hustle and Grow concept. Undergrad and grad students use the farm frequently for entomology teachings. The farm provides a valuable learning space for students at underfunded schools.

The EBR School Gardens committee works with 20 schools throughout EBR and

would like to support school gardening at more sites, particularly in North Baton Rouge so site instructors would have less of a commute.

Caleb Wells discussed the capacity to channel volunteers towards specific one-off events or consistent things through LSU Food Pantry, Volunteer LSU, Go Big Baton Rouge, and Service Breaks. Reach out to​ for more information.

Work Group 1 discussed listening to members of the community in regards to reactions to development and art already being developed in the area, specifically murals, and what sort of aesthetics are appreciated. That is, understanding art as it relates to your business and immediate vicinity versus art “in the community”. A Google driving tour contextualized the conversation: Winbourne is an artery in the community with an identity that people want to

maintain. But artists can still take on fun activities/flavors that differ from the identity of Winbourne as “an escape” or something outside the ordinary. The art needs to be meaningful: not overly busy or too comic book-like, not graffiti-like but “clean”. Art should be complementary to the environment and fit in well. We will need to get some ideas for public art/interpretive programming at the Myrtlelawn Park site. We would like to have a statement community piece connected with themes from Howell.

Work Group 2 discussed the resources in the group already and ways to bring people together. We need coordination between groups, perhaps using a community calendar, with similar goals to avoid redundancy. We are looking to engage with new partners (LSU Dining, Food Pantry, Service Orgs, etc.).

There will be no MLK Day event this year due to COVID-19.

There will be no meeting in December. Meetings will resume in January.

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