Native Species for an Indigenous City

RSF Social Finance Seed Fund Grantee Highlight
Dec 23, 2015 10:15 AM ET

Reimagine Money Blog

Arc of Greater New Orleans has evolved much since its inception in 1953. Today, the organization is a culmination of decades of work by devoted individuals whose ultimate goal is to integrate people with intellectual disabilities into their communities. Arc serves some 900 children, adults and their families in Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany Parishes by providing various services such as child care, family service coordination, and supported living assistance. Arc received a $2,000 grant from the RSF Social Finance's Seed Fund in 2015 to support its efforts in starting a native Louisiana plant nursery.

What distinguishes Arc from others doing similar work in the area are the social enterprises and non-profits it manages, which enable the organization to employ people with disabilities. The Vintage Garden Farms is but one of six operations overseen by Arc. In this post, Richard Waller, a horticulture specialist with the farm, graciously provided RSF with the following insights into his group’s work.

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in the City of New Orleans, The Vintage Garden Farms is a non-profit running an environmentally responsible small-scale farm that employs twelve individuals with developmental disabilities. Our mission aims for both social and ecological benefits, and we take our job of growing flowers and food as a sacred task.

We began our small nursery with species that were easier to grow and readily appreciated. We’ve chosen plant varieties that provide tangible benefits to the local fauna. For example, the American Beauty Berry provides food for 10 species of birds. The durable and graceful Button Bush is another specimen, which attracts butterflies, humming birds, and honey-making bees.

Caring for indigenous species can be the beginning of a tangible education. The knowledge gained through this experience leads to an informed appreciation for the unique cultural and natural history of this Deep South estuary. For those of us at The Vintage Garden Farms, we see this new understanding as crucial to becoming a responsible member of our ecosphere.

For over 60 years, our parent organization, Arc of Greater New Orleans, has supported the families of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by creating a supportive, dignified work environment that has benefited hundreds of individuals. Through our work on the farm, we continue this tradition.

We invite you to come see our farm and nursery when you’re in New Orleans. Visitors and volunteers, with a little notice, are always welcome. You can also find us on Facebook at ‘The Vintage Garden Farm‘.