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The Economy Project
Thu January 14, 2010
Full Circle for a Farmers Market
By Ian McNulty
New Orleans, LA –
Just as cycles of growth and rebirth set the pace down on the farm, a farmers market in Mid-City has recently come full circle, and hopes are high that it will bear new fruit.
Beginning back in 2001, the Crescent City Farmers Market held one of its three weekly markets in Mid-City each Thursday afternoon, outside the American Can apartment building. While the group's Saturday market in the Warehouse District and Tuesday market Uptown reopened after Hurricane Katrina, this Mid-City market was put on hold indefinitely.
Enter Jon Smith. He's the proprietor of the wine shop Cork & Bottle, which is located adjacent to the old Mid-City market site in the American Can building. In April 2008, he organized and launched a new market on the same spot. He dubbed it the Mid-City Green Market.
The original farmers market was good for his wine shop's business, but Smith has always maintained that his motivation for starting the Green Market was more about reviving a community gathering place one he believed was especially important as the area rebuilt after the Katrina levee failures.
Though the Green Market was an independent venture, the people at the Crescent City Farmers Market played a vital role from the start. Smith approached the group with his proposal to open a new market using their model, and he found the organization was eager to help him get the new venture off the ground. After all, part of this nonprofit group's mission is to mentor other markets, so staffers helped draft the new market's organizational structure and assisted with practical matters along the way.
Many of the farmers, fishers and other vendors who sold goods at the same site before Katrina became part of the Green Market, and it soon became a reliable Thursday spot for groceries and also a bit of that bonhomie that local markets incubate so well.
But Smith is first and foremost a wine merchant, and he knew he couldn't properly grow the market all on his own. He began looking for others to come on board late last year, and the timing proved fortuitous. Staff at the Crescent City Farmers Market were just then discussing the addition of a third weekly market. They quickly reached an agreement to take back the reins of a market already in place on very familiar ground.
While the market time and place are the same, the change of management means the greater programming resources of the Crescent City Farmers Market organization are coming to bear. For instance, this newest edition of the Crescent City Farmers Market will accept food stamp payments, just like the Uptown and Warehouse District markets, just one of the programs making farmers markets increasingly accessible to more people.
In it's short life, the Green Market showed the impact that even a small market can have on a community of local food producers and shoppers, a community that now seems poised to reap even more in the future.
The first, or resumed, Mid-City farmers market is scheduled for Jan. 14, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 3700 Orleans Ave, and continues each Thursday. Visit the market's Web site for details.