Lower Ninth Ward "Gets Fruity" with Bees and citrus Trees
David Young stands in his side-by-side, newly-won lots in the Lower Ninth Ward that will one day be planted with 28 different fruit trees. "citrus, bananas, and fi gs," he says, surveying the land and looking pleased. "Different varieties for a staggered harvest."
Young is the recent winner of the PitchNOLA 2012: Lots of Progress competition that presented entrants with vacant lots owned by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and asked them to pitch an idea for how to use them in ways that benefi t the community. David Young's proposal, tentatively called "Get Fruity about Trees," won over the judges (chef John Besh, NORA cEO Jeff Hebert, and Director of the Tulane city center Dr. Maurice cox) because of its direct benefi t to the community: all the fruit produced will be given back to the nearby residents in this grocery store-lacking neighborhood.
Young, a former chief of police from northern indiana, came to New Orleans in the years after Katrina as a volunteer, helping to rebuild homes in st Bernard with the Brethren Disaster Ministries. Even though the volunteers worked in st Bernard, Young kept gravitating west toward the Lower Ninth Ward.
Eventually he moved down to stay, renting a house in the Holy cross neighborhood and cultivating an interest in the community. On the other side of claiborne Ave, near the Make it Right houses, Young took interest in gardening on a vacant lot on Deslonde st, and bought it from the city a few years ago to start a community garden. so far, he does most of the gardening, but has given away hundreds of pounds of produce to neighborhood residents.
He started beekeeping a year ago, for pollination, buying a hive in the spring and driving his "ladies" (sealed, but still inside his car!) all the way from Texas to New Orleans. For isaac, he evacuated with the bees (again inside his car), this time all the way to indiana, and then back.
Once the citrus orchard is planted, the bees will move the few blocks over there to benefi t from the nectar-rich citrus blossoms.
Young's roots in the community continue to grow: he bought a house a few blocks from the garden and is in the midst of renovating it by himself, and now his plans have spread to more vacant lots nearby, not just the two he won in the PitchNOLA competition. Just after he won the competition, he found out that his proposal for other Lower Ninth Ward lots owned by Habitat for Humanity was accepted. so now, in addition to the citrus orchard he'll be planting this winter and spring, he'll be starting more gardens on the Habitat lots, in addition to a community gathering space on a lot that's shady and tree-lined, more suitable for a park than for growing fruits and vegetables.
He also talked with one of the PitchNOLA runners-up, a group called Goats of Progress, who want to use goats to control the weeds on vacant lots around the city. "We'd like to collaborate so that the goats can graze down the lots before planting."
To contact David Young about volunteering and tree-planting projects, go to www. capstone118.us, or email David directly at young. [email protected]