Turning Waste Into Gardening Gold
Joseph Brock, a New Orleans native and Loyola University alumnus, founded and runs NOLA Green Roots (NGR), which spent last year turning 8 million pounds of yard waste and food scraps into garden gold — compost.
NGR’s compost is used primarily to provide nutrients to the fresh, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, herbs and mushrooms grown in local community gardens. Local restaurants, along with residential and other commercial clients save their food scraps, then NGR hauls them away to small composting stations rather than to the landfill.
Brock strongly supports the belief that community gardening systematically improves the quality of community life by providing a catalyst for employment, education, recreation and exercise. His organization maintains several gardens around the city, as well as donates compost to other community and school gardens.
“Gardens provide the nutrients for neighborhood and community development,” he says. “Community gardens can help eliminate food deserts, decrease urban blight and produce nutritious food.”
In 2008, Brock developed a blueprint for building sustainable community gardens. He studied several models of community gardens from Seattle, San Francisco and even Lafayette that instituted citywide composting of yard waste and food scraps.
In 2009, with the help of volunteers, he developed the Mid-City Community Garden. Over the next three years, his business developed several more community gardens throughout the city.
One such garden is the Wise Words Community Garden in Mid-City. It has 20 raised beds, an outdoor seating area — which includes a gazebo — along with a chicken coop, cooking deck, and a compost training area.
Brock currently has 150 clients, both residential and commercial, and works with a variety of local restaurants and businesses, including WalMart. He and his staff of five collect 55,000 pounds of waste a week. Clients pay a nominal fee for the service and in return receive three bags of compost monthly. He also sells the finished compost to places like Starke’s Garden Center in Houma.
“We have people come from all over for our compost,” Brock says. “We can blend the nutrients so our clients get exactly what they need for their gardens.”
In conjunction with The Composting Network, NGR is growing fresh fruits and vegetables using their compost and soil. The organization is also giving back by providing local educating farmers an opportunity to receive free seedlings when in stock.
All community gardeners, farmers, teachers and nonprofits located in the Greater New Orleans area are welcome to sign up to receive notifications on when seedlings are available.
“All we ask is that you return the trays,” Brock says.