Meet the Modern Farmer: Jeanette Bell

Rush Jagoe

Garden on Mars
New Orleans

“I talk to them about how they can grow healthy food—even if it’s just lettuce and parsley—and save money at the same time,” — Jeanette Bell.

At an age when most folks have already retired, Jeanette Bell manages two urban farms in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, which still bears the scars of Hurricane Katrina. The 72-year-old regularly works well into the evening, tending vegetables and flowers in raised beds. “I want to keep my lots pristine, because I understand how hard it is to live here,” she says. “My neighbors deserve something pretty to look at.”

She uses one farm to grow vegetables and herbs for Ian Schnoebelen, chef and co-owner of the city’s Mariza restaurant; the other yields roses, dahlias, zinnias, and more for local florists. Building community, though, remains Bell’s top priority. The profits from Garden on Mars, along with donations, help fund the free horticulture classes she hosts on-site. Bell also provides local families with 4-by-8-foot wooden boxes, soil, and seeds to create their own backyard kitchen gardens. “I talk to them about how they can grow healthy food—even if it’s just lettuce and parsley—and save money at the same time,” says Bell. “That can be very empowering.”

Meet the Modern Farmer: Jeanette Bell