three people on-stage for a cooking demonstration
“One Grain at a Time: Jubliee Justice” with Ausettua Amor Amenkum, Bernard Winn. Photo © Anna Mulè

Blog | May 17, 2024

HOMEGROWN x Love Earth Tour at Jazz Fest: Our Top Takeaways

by Anna Mulè

As part of our work with Neil Young to “green” the concessions on his tour, Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Food headed to New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with Neil Young’s Love Earth tour to host “Farm to Fest in collaboration with HOMEGROWN by Farm Aid” at the Food Heritage Stage. Stories of food and culture were presented by Bayou Sarah Farms, Dr. Zella Palmer (Dillard University) and Chef Serigne Mbaye (Dakar NOLA), Jubilee Justice and Soul Sisters Creole Vegan Cuisine, Grow Dat Youth Farm, and Market Umbrella/Crescent City Farmers Market with Palm&Pine restaurant.

Of course, we also rocked out to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s set at the main stage! Here are our top takeaways:

Music and food feed the body and soul

Yes, that shaker is a mason jar filled with “Black Joy” rice from Jubilee Justice. As Dr. Zella Palmer said, “Music and food are integrated in so many cultures.”

Chef Serigne Mbaye of restaurant Dakar: “Through food we can realize how much we have in connection. Music is a way to connect us. The music that we play in the restaurant is heavily on the drum side. If the drums are not present, the celebration hasn’t begun. You can’t celebrate if you don’t have the drum. Drum wakes up the soul. When you’re in our restaurant, you’re in our home. You’re part of our community.”

The history of our country flavors our food

Say “New Orleans food” and what comes to mind? Jambalaya. Gumbo. Beignets. But you can’t talk about good southern cuisine without giving credit to West Africa. Chef Mbaye remembers first tasting beignets when he came to NOLA and getting a flashback to his childhood in Senegal. They used millet to make a fluffy and nutritious travel snack that kids loved.

West Africans — especially SeneGambians — were the first enslaved peoples to be forced from their homeland. They brought their cuisine and kept the traditions going; their presence imbued NOLA with a deep sense of hospitality  despite incredible hardship and loss.

a man and a woman seated on-stage with a HOMEGROWN banner behind them

“Exploring the Intersection of Food, History, & Culture” with Dr. Zella Palmer and Chef Serigne Mbaye. Photo © Anna Mulè

We can trace a similar story with Jollof rice becoming Jambalaya, okra and seafood dishes becoming gumbo — and, by the way, the banjo following the same route.

“We’re literally eating history on our plate.” — Dr. Zella Palmer

Now, collaborations between Grow Dat Farm and Chef Mbaye are bringing these traditions back with events like the Afro Freedom Fest, where chefs and eaters come together to pay homage to how our ancestors cooked on live fire, outside. They support local farmers and celebrate culture, music and food.

Farming builds leaders and strong local economies

Young people at Grow Dat Farm started the season focused on growing food “straight outta the ground,” but this year, they have also become community organizers and activists. When the city threatened to build a road through the land and soils they have built up for years, Grow Dat hosted community forums and raised awareness to push City Park to listen to their constituents. Learn more from Friends of Grow Dat on their Instagram account.

“I’m not trusted in other places… at Grow Dat, you get trust and it’s not dismissed because of your age.” — Frankie with Grow Dat

“I’ve learned how to be on the land and really enjoy that.” — Zelda with Grow Dat

“Grow Dat Youth Farm — Their Story” with Sara Smith and The Grow Dat Farmers. Photo © Anna Mulè

Jubilee Justice is also mobilizing for sustainability and reclaiming rice as Black farmers’ heritage. Inglewood Farm donated a rice mill to Jubilee Justice, so that they can increase farmer pay from 13-15 cents/pound, to 85-100 cents/pound. Nine African American farmers are now learning to grow the rice which will be commercially available next year. They are starting to work with Lotus Foods who will market their rice.

Tell the story

Dr. Zella Palmer, from Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program: “We as consumers have to demand better food. We have to support local farmers. We have to support local fishermen… We don’t want the next generation to be microwave eaters.”

“Regenerative Farming Discussion & Cheese Making Demonstration” with Sarah Roland and Bayou Sarah Farms. Photo © Anna Mulè

This is exactly what local growers like Bayou Sarah Farms, Market Umbrella/Crescent City Farmers Market and chefs like Jordan Herndon and Amarys Koenig Herndon from Palm&Pine are doing. They are engaging eaters with the story behind their fresh, local food, and showing how food that is better for the planet is also densely nutritious and super delicious.

Photo Gallery

Check out more photos from our time at Jazz Fest below.

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