Press Street Gardens: Cultivating a sense of Community

Life at the Freeman School can be like living in a bubble. We easily get caught up in deadlines, club meetings, guest speakers, and job hunting, and sometimes we forget to take part in the community around us (beyond the watering holes of Freret Street). Every once in a while it’s important to remind ourselves that personal growth requires lessons outside of the classroom, and that in order to cultivate ourselves we must make an impact on the immediate world that surrounds us. I recently had an incredible day giving back to my community alongside twenty of my closest friends: Freeman students and faculty.

I am fortunate to serve as the VP of Communications for the Graduate Women in Business student organization, partially because we are the only graduate student organizations that offers a hands-on community service experience. This year we decided to spend a day at Press Street Gardens. The gardens are owned and operated by the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts High School (NOCCA), with the help of full-time staff of horticulturalists, nutritionists, and AmeriCorps members. When the gardens are up and growing they will serve several functions. NOCCA students will directly benefit from the garden through experiential learning in culinary arts, life sciences, and fine arts classes. Additionally, the recently opened Press Street Station plans to source fruit, vegetables, and herbs from the garden. Proceeds from the restaurant also benefit NOCCA. Finally, the Press Street Staff is hopeful that their garden will produce enough crops to sell to other local restaurants and markets, ultimately bringing even more funding back to the students.

During our day at the gardens we got our hands dirty, had great conversations, and laughed a lot. We sifted through soil pulling out rocks and branches, sawed through roots and stumps, tilled soil, and built planting beds to sustain the surrounding school and community. The idea of feeding the education of others was especially empowering. As students who have been given so much opportunity, we understand the amount of support and the number of helping hands necessary to succeed in our goals. We are fortunate to receive that support through direct and indirect encounters with Freeman classmates, faculty, and alumni. Working in the garden reinforced the value of our community, and we left the gardens with closer friendships, a sense of renewal, and a deep understanding of just how fortunate we are to be part of the Freeman School.

Lauren Siegel, MBA Candidate 2015