New Orleans, LA – As proprietor of a local wine shop, Jon Smith has experience with the fruit of the vine. But lately he has been spending a good bit of his time with many other types of fruit -- plus vegetables, seafood and the occasional bag of kettle corn.
Smith is the founder and organizer of the Mid-City Green Market, the farmers market that recently celebrated its one-year anniversary outside of the American Can apartment building at Orleans Avenue and Bayou St. John. Since last spring, vendors and shoppers have been gathering here each Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., in essence recreating a community marketplace and unique social scene that existed on the very same spot before Katrina.
The nonprofit now known as MarketUmbrella.org ran one of its three Crescent City Farmers Markets here each Thursday before the disaster. While the group's Uptown and Warehouse District markets reopened after the hurricane, the Mid-City market was put on hold indefinitely.
Smith runs the wine shop Cork & Bottle, which just so happens to be located in the American Can building. The farmers market was always good for business before the storm, but Smith says the motivation for starting his own market here had more to do with reviving a community tradition, one he believes is especially important as the neighborhood continues to rebuild.
Neighborhood-based markets have a long history in New Orleans. At the start of the 20th century there were more than 30 city-owned markets in operation. The only one of those remaining today is the French Market, while another shuttered vestige of the city's old market system is the St. Roch market on St. Claude Avenue. That market has been targeted by the city for restoration, though little progress is evident.
Meanwhile, other locals have been starting their own new markets. The Gretna Farmers Market was formed just two months after Katrina, and is now held in downtown Gretna each Saturday morning. Back across the river on St. Claude Avenue, the Upper Ninth Ward Farmers Market sets up shop outside the Holy Angels Convent every Saturday afternoon, and there are plenty of others.
To get the Mid-City Green Market going, Smith turned to the MarketUmbrella.org folks for help. Now, they could have seen this as competition for their own markets. But as it turns out, mentoring other markets is part of the nonprofit's own mission, and they provided crucial start-up know-how from the beginning.
Today, a trip the Mid-City Green Market looks, tastes and feels much like it did before Katrina. Many of the same farmers, fishers and other vendors who previously sold their goods here have returned to its new incarnation. So have many of their pre-storm customers.
And the addition of a new wine bar, called Clever, just a few steps away from the market in the American Can building has made the shopping experience here all the more enjoyable.
Here is an overview of local farmers markets and other markets with farm vendors in the area:
Covington Farmers Market
When: Every Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and every Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Wednesday at 419 N. New Hampshire St.; Saturday at 609 N. Columbia St., Covington
Crescent City Farmers Market
When: Uptown, every Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; American Sector, every Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon
Where: Uptown market is at Uptown Square, 200 Broadway; American Sector market is at 700 Magazine St.
German Coast Farmers Market
When: West Bank market every Wednesday, 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; East Bank market every Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon
Where: West Bank market is at 12715 Hwy. 90, Luling; East Bank market is at Ormond Plantation, 13786 River Rd., Destrehan
When: First Saturday of each month, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Freret Street parking lot, between Napoleon Avenue and Jena Street
Gretna Farmers Market
When: Every Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Huey P. Long Avenue, between Third and Fourth streets