Ashley Webb and her husband Andres Barcelo-Sanchez are the owners of Barcelo Gardens, a community garden turned farmer’s market in New Orleans. How did they get here? Humble beginnings.
Webb wasn’t always interested in gardening, but after attending a garden show and learning about Ron Finley, a Los Angeles fashion designer and urban gardening enthusiast who did a TED talk on “guerilla gardening,” she was hooked. Upon moving to New Orleans in 2017, she wanted to garden in a small area by the sidewalk like Ron Finley did, but ended up going for gold by purchasing an empty lot nearby to establish a larger community garden.
The reason behind starting a community garden was to fill a need in her neighborhood: combatting the food desert. So, with the community garden established, so came disaster in the form of the pandemic. With restrictions weighing heavily on everyone’s minds, the family came to a decision (following the suggestion of a neighbor) to use the extra time on their hands to create a farmer’s market. In July 2020, they did just that by hosting their first market, selling the various produce they had grown in their garden.
With time and effort, the simple market soon grew to encompass two locations in New Orleans in Napoleonville, where they hold farmer’s markets weekly called “Fresh Market.” The market is open to the public and runs Sunday to Thursday, meeting the needs of everyone who decides to drop by. Of course, despite their success here, there was still more work to be done.
“As I learned more and more about food sovereignty, I really wanted to both teach others to grow and increase the availability of fresh produce in the 9th ward, an area that is a food desert,” shares Webb.
Alongside the markets, they began to teach gardening classes twice a month and occasionally do free cooking demonstrations. The markets themselves have grown to allow vendors to set up and sell their own produce and products as well. Additionally, they do free delivery of produce bags to local families.
To further give back to their community, they have donated produce to community fridges and pantries, Second Harvest Food Bank when they have extra produce, and take the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons when they are available. In March, they donated food to a neighborhood engagement event as well.
In the future, Webb hopes that their Fresh Market can be built into more of a community gathering spot with gardening classes, cooking classes, kids’ activities, and more. For now, when looking back, Webb is proud of their success. “The most exciting thing is seeing things grow and being able to see people’s excitement when they are able to make things grow, too,” says Webb.
Today, their community garden market is open every Saturday, except the first Saturday of the month, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2301 Gallier Street. Barcelo Gardens is always looking for new vendors to join its ranks and is open to hearing any exciting ideas for new classes, so feel free to drop by!
To donate towards building the Fresh Market and supporting the garden, visit their GoFundMe page. If you would like to keep up with their latest happenings and successes, peruse their Facebook page at facebook.com/BarceloGardens.