Sugar Roots Farm connects people to their food with educational programs.
Cheryl Gerber photographs
My childhood summers were utterly pastoral. As soon as school ended, I was packed off to my father’s family farm. I never complained. No fancy French pastry will ever taste as sweet as the corn snapped from the stalk, plunged into boiling water and then slathered with farm-made butter. No expensive cologne will ever measure up to the scent, equal parts WD-40 and honest sweat, that enveloped me as I jostled on the Ford 9N tractor embraced in Grandpa Alvin’s strong arms.
I frolicked with the goats, contemplated with the cows and chased the chickens all summer long. But come summer’s end, Alvin made sure I understood what a farm animal’s purpose truly was. The pig I had petted a few days before was now the protein on my plate.
You cannot come away from that experience without having a profound respect for the ultimate sacrifice animals make to fill our bellies. I never wonder where my food comes from, I learned my lesson well.
Sharessa Garland, owner of Sugar Roots Farm is saddened by the fact that when she asks New Orleans children if they know where their food comes from they almost always answer, “Yeah, I do: McDonald’s.”
In an effort to change that she is building Sugar Roots Farm on nine acres located in the rich land of Lower Coast Algiers. She closed on the property on Oct. 27, 2014, and has been tirelessly working to get the farm up and running by late spring. She wants to open the farm to the public to nurture the seeds of earth stewardship and humane treatment of animals, and to connect people to local food.
Currently, the farm has one acre cleared with several out buildings, pens and coops. She’s bought very little lumber using things such as reclaimed pallets. The farm’s fenceposts came from left over tops of pilings.
“The workers said take them before we take them to the dumpster,” she says.
Sugar Roots Farm is home to horses, Opal and Buck; pigs, Ruth and Mabel; rabbits, Rosy and Po Boy and Chevy, a tiny rescued Spanish goat.
“I am not a vegetarian,” she says. “I am a meat-eater, but I believe we need to have compassionate interactions with animals. That’s what we want to instill in the children who visit the farm.”
She also plans a one-acre garden that will sell produce to local restaurants. She especially wants to build a mushroom house. More things on her list include a citrus orchard, beehives and a pumpkin patch.
“The soil is so good here,” she says. “Much of the land in the city has high lead count, but so much of our land is untouched, so no lead here.”
Though the farm will not open until spring, many people, such as families from Morris Jeff Community School, her children’s school, make regular visits to lend a hand. Her daughter, 7-year-old Tegan, is quite passionate about the farm’s mission.
“Mom says that lots of kids need to learn about where milk comes from and where their food comes from and their meat and steaks,” she says. “It’s really important.”
When asked what animal she likes best at the farm, she looks around and her eyes quickly come back to Ruth, the black Yorkshire pig.
“Definitely the pigs,” she says. Then she says to Ruth, “But we not going to roast you. No, we’re not.”
Ruth promptly flops to the ground, rolls over and offers her belly for Tegan to rub. Sugar Roots Farm is a truly good thing for all involved.