Locavore bike tour pedals past urban gardens

A bike ride sounds like a glorious way to pass a few hours on a summer afternoon, especially when you’re riding with a group and have intriguing destinations in mind.

So grab a bike, recruit a buddy or two, and meet up at Zeitgeist Multidisciplinary Arts Center Sunday at 11 a.m., where you will pick up your map of three remarkable community gardens on the West Bank that will welcome you and show off their bounty.

The “Urban Farms Bike Tour” is one of the events that tops off the annual Eat Local Challenge, a month of events that encourage us all to be Locavores — those who consume fresh food products sourced locally, within miles of home.

Cyclists will ride from Zeitgeist to the Canal Street ferry landing for a trip to the West Bank, then pedal to three Parkway Partners community gardens, before taking the ferry back to the East Bank.

They will ride back to Zeitgeist just in time for a grand finale party celebrating the Eat Local Challenge.

The bike tour is free, unless you want one of the T-shirts (who wouldn’t?) which cost $10.

Here’s a preview of the Algiers gardens cyclists will visit in Algiers.

Of course, if cycling isn’t your thing, you are welcome to the garden open houses anyway.

1:45 p.m.: The Federal City Community Garden (400 Guadalcanal St. in Federal City)

Cindy Metcalf got to thinking about an abandoned tennis court on the Federal City site and had an unexpected idea: Why not convert it to a community garden?

A Master Gardener (someone who has taken the demanding course put on annually by the LSU AgCenter), Metcalf now oversees a thriving garden, its beds built atop the tennis court’s blacktop and rimmed in cement blocks to hold the soil and plantings in place.

The garden has 32 beds, and Metcalf sees the potential for 19 more. Most of the beds are tended by military personnel, many of whom are war veterans and some of whom have sustained injuries or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. But other gardeners have been attracted from the surrounding neighborhood by the solid sense of community that has grown up in the garden along with fruit, flowers, and vegetables.

2:30 p.m.: The Magellan Street Community Garden (3320 Magellan Street, Algiers)

The Magellan Street Garden underwent a major makeover last year after lead gardener Tony Lee’s late wife, Linette, reached out to the Tulane City Center for help. A team of 12 students, led by Doug Harmon and Sam Richards, responded.

The newly refurbished garden features a shade structure which not only provides a relaxing place to rest after digging in the dirt, but screens a storage area and funnels rainwater off its roof into a small wetland that was constructed on site, along with two ponds.

3:45 p.m.: The Algiers-Behrman Community Garden (615 Opelousas St., Algiers Point)

Maria Etkind came up with the idea of organizing a community garden when she stumbled across a TV documentary about growing healthy food. She contacted Parkway Partners to learn more about its community garden program and learned that the location on Opelousas Street had been left fallow for the past decade. Etkind did a little digging (more metaphorical than physical) and discovered that the Martin Behrman Charter School Academy of Creative Arts and Sciences owns the property.

A plan began to take shape. Etkind recruited friends, neighbors, the Behrman School, and funders to pitch in and now what had been a weedy, vine-covered no-man’s land is an orderly and peaceful environment where flowers grow alongside vegetables and fruit. Could the garden one day serve as Behrman’s edible school yard? Etkind hopes so.

R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at rstephaniebruno@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @rstephaniebruno