The umbrella organization for the Crescent City Farmers Market manages what amounts to a local currency. Market shoppers are able to convert credit, debit and benefit cards into wooden tokens, called “Crescents.” Each year, Market shoppers spend over $265,000 in tokens, in addition to $2.8 million in cash sales, on Tuesdays and Saturdays in New Orleans.
The Crescent is the means whereby credit and debit shoppers enjoy the convenience of shopping locally with the farmers who harvest the fruits of their labor. It is also the means by which food stamp shoppers are able to find fresh, local value.
To make actions even more valuable, in 2008 marketumbrella.org introduced a suggested donation of $1 per transaction for credit and debit shoppers as investments into a cash infusion fund, called the Crescent Fund. The pool of funds are reserved for innovators among vendors, shoppers and the wider community who seek cash infusions that are disbursed on a quarterly basis. To date, the Market community has voted for six non- and for-profit enterprises through the Crescent Fund. Recipients include two Market vendors. One seeks a new oven for her baking business, another new greenhouses to replace the ones destroyed in the December 2008 snowstorm. The Crescent Fund has supported the following community projects: Project Rising Sun (a Small Axe Farms youth gardening initiative), Sowing Seeds of Knowledge (at Good Shepherd School), and two bicycle projects – the NOLA Bike Map Project and R.U.B.A.R.B.
On Saturday, October 3, 2009, marketumbrella.org will unveil the new Crescent, paying honor to founding Crescent City Farmers Market vendor James “Billy Corn” Burkett of Petal, MS who died while driving en route to Market in early December 1995 during an early winter cold front. His brother, the other half of their B&B Farms, Ben Burkett, continues to play a major role in the Farmers Market and its related activities both as farmer and Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives. He will be at Market to unveil the design of the new coin at the opening 8:00 am bell.
Born November 11, 1928 in Forrest County, Mississippi, Billy Burkett was an active community member, a Master Sergeant with the United States Army and a member of the Heifer project. He was also one of the founding farmers at the Crescent City Farmers Market with his brother, and current vendor, Ben Burkett. Together they ran B&B Farms in Petal, Mississippi on 255 acres of land their family has worked since the 1880s. Both brothers were early members of the Indian Springs Farmers association, a cooperative founded in 1979 to grades, pack and ship the produce of African American farmers in six Mississippi counties, helping them secure higher prices through collective bargaining and access to greater marketing opportunities. Billy died suddenly, at age 67, in a car accident on route to the Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans from his farm in Mississippi.
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.