Ted Warren (right) describing his Dittle's Community Garden project to visitors at the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival.
What would bring PBS urban gardening celebrity P. Allen Smith of A Garden Home fame to Shreveport? He came because of the terrific potential community garden site in the Fairfield Historic District, owned by Dr. Ted and Lesa Warren.
Smith is working with the Warrens to transform the one-time Mildred Street Park at the corner of Southern Avenue and Olive Street. When complete, the 10-lot parcel will contain not only a community vegetable garden but also an orchard, poultry area, a barn with its own meeting room, commercial kitchen for cooking classes, and office and storage space.
Along their trek toward developing Dittle's Community Garden, the Warrens made a number of changes in their lives. A decision to no longer consume empty calories and replace their previous food choices with fresh, nutritious food, coupled with exercise, wrung excess pounds from Ted's frame. Once weighing 300 pounds, he can now wear his trim Haughton High School Buccaneers jacket.
Deciding to buy an older home, they purchased a 1905 home on College Street in 2011. About that time, they bought a vacant land parcel two blocks away, intending to grow a garden there and pave part of it where Ted Warren could restore Shelby Mustangs, another hobby.
Testing to make sure the soil had not been contaminated, the Warrens learned it was pristine and decided they couldn't pave over it. Fans of the P. Allen Smith show, the Warrens attended the 2011 Fall Festival at Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm, and adopted elements of it into their plan. They took the 2012 Louisiana State University Master Gardener’s course and decided to call in Smith as consultant for "Dittle's" garden, using Ted Warren's childhood nickname.
Obtaining Smith's support took repeated, weekly phone calls before the expert signed on. Their persistence and foresight in getting expert help before starting construction won him over. Last March, he came to Shreveport for a fundraiser to advance the project. He and his staff consult with the Warrens regularly.
Dittle's Community Garden has received 501(c) 3 status and made connections with local schools that have it listed on their 2014 curriculum. A springtime fundraiser is in the planning stages.
-- By Lani Duke