A traditional Native American saying (referring to the rows of planted crops)

After the waters of Katrina receded from St. Bernard Parish, the residents of St. Bernard were greeted by a vision of devastation unlike anything they could have imagined.  Five years later, St. Bernard's population has been cut in half, but those who have returned to rebuild their community are giving it everything they’ve got.

Of the many obstacles facing them, one of the toughest is that of physical and mental health. They have among the highest rates of depression, diabetes and heart disease in the state of Louisiana.  Part of this can be attributed to stress and anxiety, but nutrition has suffered too, as the economic devastation has limited their access to affordable fresh produce. And now with the BP Gulf oil spill, more people will have less access to that other staple, fresh fish, and incomes will drop once again, though for new reasons.

Our answer: the Garden of HOPE, the first community garden in the Parish. A small and diverse group of Parish residents, the principal founders have just, this past winter, signed a ten-year renewable lease on a grassy acre on the east bank of the Mississippi. Half the acre will be turned into a market garden under the direction of a master gardener, August Casamet. With the help of friends and neighbors, fresh organic produce will be sold at the deepest discount they can manage at the farm itself, a nearby roadside stand, and at greenmarkets, local groceries (Almost all of proceeds will be plowed back into the garden.)

For those who want to grow their own food, the other half will be divided into free individual plots for community members. The garden staff will supply the tools, training and know-how for these local gardeners to "grow your own." They intend a small community of growers, and friends of growers to emerge, with evening potlucks, and such.

The design plans include a comprehensive rain harvesting, drainage and irrigation system as well as a charming gazebo where gardeners can get out of the heat and swap plants, recipes and stories.

Those who returned to St. Bernard Parish after Katrina are determined not only to heal, but to emerge as a stronger, healthier community. We need about $20,000 to start, which means amending the soil – all kinds of gunk flowed into and out of the soil with Katrina. For organic gardening, everyone says – it’s the soil, stupid. So we need to purchase compost and cured manure. And we need a good fence, what to keep critters out. We need a drainage and rain harvesting system. There’s no lack of rain lately, but we can run into some dry spells. No need to pump water when it falls from the skies.

If you can make a $20 contribution, and tell everyone in your address book, we’ll reach our goal quickly! Thanks for considering.

We’re gearing up for our “kickstarter” account. Until that happens, thank you for sending a check to:
Voices Foundation
821 Angela Avenue
Arabi, La 70032

Please write “Garden of HOPE” on the memo line. For back-up, and accounting purposes, you can send an e-mail message to me (Susan) at my one~eyedCat address,


August, Lettie Lee, Sue, David and Susan