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Sustaining Our Urban Landscape | SOUL

SOUL’s mission is to drive a resilient and equitable New Orleans through strengthening our local water and food systems.

Right now a hodgepodge of trees, green infrastructure and farms dot the city,  unable to make a real impact. SOUL seeks to address these elements as scalable and comprehensive systems that are vital to a healthy, happy and safe city.

SOUL seeks to work closely with communities in installing thriving urban forests and green infrastructure that have a substantial impact on the environmental challenges facing New Orleans. By working alongside neighborhoods, we intend to plant thousands of trees in each neighborhood, accompanied by implementing systems of green infrastructure.

Approximately sixty farms and community gardens exist in New Orleans. This is a good start, but SOUL envisions creating a local food system by first growing a workforce of urban farmers along with building farms in every neighborhood. These farm sites also have the potential to play a viable role in green infrastructure regarding reusing stormwater and keeping runoff on site. Meanwhile the farms embody workforce opportunities, while providing food access in disenfranchised neighborhoods.


SOUL addresses the stormwater and subsidence problems that threaten the future of our city through implementing systematic and a large scale urban forest and green infrastructure. This approach will mitigate stormwater runoff while preventing further subsidence.


1) New Orleans is sinking. In 1890, 100% of the city was above sea level. Today 50% of New Orleans is below sea level, up to 12’ below in some areas. [i] “In some places (the city is subsiding) more than 1.5 inches each year.”[ii] While green infrastructure cannot reverse subsidence, it can prevent us from sinking any further. It also allows us to live safely and harmoniously with the stormwater that inevitably affects us. Trees are the most cost effective and easiest form of green infrastructure to implement.

 2) Localized flooding impacts many areas of New Orleans during average rain events. Green infrastructure will enable us to keep our stormwater on site and out of the municipal drainage system. Most importantly we want to detain the “first flush,” the initial rainfall that catches the most pollution, like motor oil, before it enters our drainage system, ultimately draining to, and polluting Lake Pontchartrain.


SOUL seeks to develop a critical mass of trained and connected urban farming entrepreneurs in the city’s low-income areas. We believe that i) urban farming can be a powerful driver of urban recovery on many social and physical levels; ii) New Orleans, with its many vacant land parcels, under-employed labor force and year round growing season is particularly suited to an urban farming approach; and iii) that the development of a cadre of well-trained entrepreneurs is absolutely essential if we are to develop this approach at any kind of meaningful scale. 


The prevalence of over 30,000 empty lots and an [iii] unemployment rate of 27% in New Orleans are traditionally viewed as a liability. NOLA Ag seeks to transform these statistics into opportunities. By creating a patchwork of urban farms and turning empty and blighted space into productive greenspace, we can create fresh food access, good and meaningful jobs, a sense of belonging and pride, and a neighborhood sense of place.




ii Anthropogenic and geologic influences on subsidence in the vicinity of New Orleans, Louisiana, May 2016

iii  Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, Assets and Opportunities Profile, 2012



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