What: Crescent City Farmers Market 13th birthday celebration featuring music, cake, Creole cream cheese gelato, and the unveiling of the Jamie Shannon Crescent currency
When: Saturday,September 27, 2008, 8 a.m. – 12 noon, rain or shine
Where: 700 Magazine Street (at the corner of Girod Street)
NEW ORLEANS: On Saturday, September 27, 2008, farmers and fishers will ring the opening bell to the market that revived an important public and culinary tradition in New Orleans 13 years ago on the mural-adorned William B. Reily parking lot at 700 Magazine Street.
As it becomes an official teenager, the Crescent City Farmers Market will celebrate with music by New Orleans crooner Philip Melancon, a CDM mocha birthday cake baked by market vendor Revista Bakery, garnished with Creole cream cheese gelato.
The Saturday market, at the corner of Magazine and Girod, is open from 8 a.m. until noon, with vendors offering seafood, flowers, fresh produce, baked goods, and other delectable delights.
During the birthday celebrations, market executives will also announce several new initiatives, including one which pays homage to the late executive chef of Commander’s Palace, Jamie Shannon, who died of cancer in2001 at age 40.
At 10 a.m., organizers will unveil a newly designed market-based coin, “The Crescent.,” which features Shannon. Representatives of the family and of Commander’s Palace will attend. It will launch a new CCFM-based philanthropic “giving circle”effort called the Crescent Fund.
Among the market’s celebrated innovations is its use of old-fashioned scrip in the form of wooden tokens which offer convenience and access. It enables those historically on the wrong side of the digital divide – farmers and fishers – to accept credit, debit and benefit cards. Early risers often arrive to market without adequate cash to purchase hot crops. market director Emery Van Hook describes, “like modern day alchemists, we turn your plastic into wood.”
The tokens also allow vendors to accept Louisiana Purchase (food stamp or electronic benefit transfer) cards.
Shannon is appropriately memorialized on the newest version of the token, the initial honoree in what will be a series devoted to culinary heroes. “When we looked for leadership, we turned to Jamie Shannon,” says Richard McCarthy, executive director of the market and head of marketumbrella.org. “This was especially the case when the Mauthe family dairy sought to reintroduce Creole cream cheese forsale at farmers markets. Jamie sat down with culinary activist Poppy Tooker and Kenny Mauthe to rework an old family recipe that had not been used indecades.”
Today, Creole cream cheese is no longer the greatly endangered traditional food item it was back inthe 1990s, McCarthy says, noting that Smith’s Creamery, and John Folse routinely deliver cases of the product to New Orleans and each week it is on sale on market Tuesdays and Saturdays at the CCFM.
After The Crescent is unveiled, cake is cut, and songs are sung (led by local crooner Philip Melancon), a parade of two-wheeled riders with the Transportation Revolution will deliver farmers market “offerings to the culinary gods” at Commander’s Palace on a two-mile motor scooter and motorcycle ride with samples from the morning’s harvest. The ride will leave the market at 11:00 a.m. and deliver them on the spot where Jamie Shannon used to park his signature Harley-Davidson motorcycle near the kitchen door.
The Crescent City Farmers Market was founded by downtown resident John Abajian, McCarthy,and Sharon Litwin, a writer, strategist and community activist who, given her close association with restaurant chefs as the New Orleans co-editor of the Zagat Guide, discovered how difficult it was for chefs to find local farmers.
Thirteen years later the demand for farmers markets has grown nationally to where USDA reports that their number have more than doubled in ten years. By 2006, USDA recognizes 4,385 farmers markets to operate in the USA. Locally, the numbers of markets have grown rapidly, especially since Hurricane Katrina.
According to recent SEED studies, the economic impact of the Crescent City Farmers Market is $6.8 million annually.
The organization behind the market – marketumbrella.org – has grown from a Saturday market in one block to a worldwide presence. Market officials led a team to the UN Earth Summit in South Africa in 2002; developed a method to accept food stamps and reopened the market 10 weeks after Katrina in 2005; led the market’s White Boot Brigade of shrimpers on their march onto The Today Show and re-granted $100,000 to devastated fishers in 2006; and launched an international research fellowship studying markets in Brazil, Los Angeles, and here at home in 2007.
Recently graduated from its status as a department of Loyola University, marketumbrella.org is now a free standing nongovernmental organization. This move enables the farmers market to continue to innovate. Among initiatives schedule for this year:
• Farmers Market B-I-N-G-O: Nutrition education can be fun!
• CBT Club: Conditional Benefit Transfer rewarding seniors who play Farmers Market B-I-N-G-O with tokens
• Greening of the Market: Featuring municipal water and more!
• Marketeers Club: Growing new food enthusiasts
• Meet Me at the Market: Increasing food stamp usage via guided tours
• Peak Season Brigades: Marching into neighborhoods to match local producers supply to consumers’ needs
“While our reach becomes more global, our commitment to the source of our inspiration — the Crescent City Farmers Market — grows ever stronger,” said McCarthy. “We believe that our market reflects the city’s strength as a center of innovation.”
For more information, contact Emery Van Hook, director of markets, at (504) 861-4488 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is free and open to the public.
The organization behind the market, marketumbrella.org cultivates the field of public markets for public good. You can learn more about the history of this newly independent nongovernmental organization online here.
Market Umbrella is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3), based in New Orleans, whose mission is to cultivate the field of public markets for public good. Market Umbrella has operated the Crescent City Farmers Markets (CCFM) since 1995.
The Crescent City Farmers Market operates weekly year-round in four New Orleans neighborhoods. The CCFM hosts nearly 80 local small farmers, fishers and food producers, and more than 100,000 shoppers annually.