Amidst the whoop of sirens, the growl of motorcycles and the constant throb of traffic on the Pontchartrain Expressway, one finds peace and calm in a verdant oasis on South Rampart Street. In the heart of Central City, Paradigm Gardens teems with flora and fauna as goats gambol, butterflies dine on milkweed and sparrows frolic over a jasmine-covered gazebo.  

After living and working in the city for a couple of years of Jimmy Seely and Joel Hitchcock-Tilton, two hardworking farm boys from Wisconsin, decided to start a non-profit community garden on Delachaise Street. They managed it for several years.

“Then in 2014 we found this lot and we broke ground in early 2015 on this for-profit business,” Hitchcock-Tilton says.

The young men transformed the city lot into a small urban farm. They removed more than 2,000 bricks by hand, brought in truckloads of manure and built among other things a wood-fired oven and grill. After four years of very hard work this garden is finally making a profit as a venue for weddings, parties and corporate events. They also offer a variety of their own in-house events.

The Paradigm Gardens concert series features a menu from local chefs all served “en plein air” beneath tea lights and shimmering stars as St. John Baptist Church lends an old-world flair in the background.

“Most of our events are food-centered, and we work with an outstanding team of restaurants including Patois and Coquette,” says Hitchcock-Tilton. “We want to provide a venue that lets people get closer to nature.”        

Another of event, which always sells out, is “Goat Yoga in the Garden.” It’s led by NOLA Tribe Yoga and features the enlightened goats: Oatmeal, Raisin, Fats and Domino.

“Doing yoga at the garden with the goats is delightful,” says Lucy Sikes, a yoga devotee.

But the garden isn’t simply a remarkable venue for dining and Zen; it also produces specialty produce for restaurants such as Patois and Coquette. The restaurants pay a yearly membership to enjoy their pick of farm fresh herbs, garnishes and vegetables.

“Their produce is so great,” says Aaron Burgau, chef-owner of Patois. “The other night at their concert series, I picked a pepper right off the vine and put it the brick oven. You just can’t beat that for taste.”

Seely and Hitchcock-Tilton often labor through 12-hour days as they work the soil, plant the seeds and do all the pest control by hand.

“We love what we do,” says Hitchcock-Tilton. “Maybe we don’t love it as much in August or January, but it’s so great being outside and just doing what you love to do.”