We Are New Orleans: Not only is our Crescent City Farmers Market an emblematic flagship for regional cooperation, but in their 2009 study Travel & Leisure voted New Orleans as third best farmers market city in America. Not bad for a city recovering from catastrophe!
We began in 1995 with a small cadre of regional farmers and urban growers keen to market directly to New Orleans shoppers and chefs on the William B. Reily parking lot in the Central Business District. Season after season, we expanded our ranks of vendors to fishers, knife sharpeners, and new generation of entrepreneurs who balance tradition with innovation. Today, we operate twice weekly with a roster of 70 vendors from three states and with a combined annual economic impact of $8.9 million a year. On Tuesday and Saturday mornings, commerce meets fun, city meets country, and ideas spring to life at the Crescent City Farmers Market.
It’s not too late to own the story. In 2009, we published our first cookbook written by Poppy Tooker and with a forward by Alice Waters. Selected by New Orleans Magazine as cookbook of the year, it gives voice to the myriad of farmers, fishers, chefs and shoppers who together preserve traditional knowledge via a delicious array of 125 recipes.
Not only are we public market managers, we’re also leaders in a field that stretches from Waveland, Mississippi to Kochi, Japan. While markets have existed for thousands of years, a new wave is cropping up around the globe. Multiple “check out” lines provide market shoppers with a multitude of transactions. Each transaction generates a world of possibilities. We use our practical know-how to design a menu of tools for markets to grow these possibilities. We share them with a growing community from whom we also learn.
Japan, we learned how vendors at a 300-year-old street market had
joined forces to establish an additional “organic Saturday market” to
encourage new farmers to meet new consumers. Also in Japan while
presenting at a Japan Society and Ford Foundation-funded symposium at
Meiji University, we examined how after natural disasters civil
society’s quick and heartfelt actions alleviate the drift and anxiety
experienced by survivors. This finding from volcanic Miyakejima mirrors
closely with our experience in New Orleans after reopening the Market
10 weeks after Katrina. To learn more, click here.
While tents and umbrellas may signal fun and frivolity, public markets also mean business. For regional economies, they facilitate commerce in public settings. For immigrant communities, they bridge new relationships. With energy sources uncertain, markets decrease the distances our food travels. And for consumers, they bring fresh leafy greens into neighborhoods. Do these various benefits add up? We think so. This is why we are developing a suite of tools to measure markets’ impacts. Look for the Public Market Portfolio on our website to view how and where we’ve deployed our tools: Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, and Brazil. And that’s just for starters! We seek resources to measure many, many more markets.
We compile the lessons learned from markets everywhere in easy-to-consume PDFs available for free from our website — click here to see our shares.
Whether we go to them or they come to us, we are committed to peer learning between public market practitioners. Recently, we hosted market leaders from Japan, New York City’s Greenmarket, and Washington, DC. Additionally, in 2009, we gave formal presentations to a number of gatherings, including the National Main Streets Conference, Project for Public Space’s International Public Market Conference, and the Australian Farmers Market Conference in Victoria. When travel and/or telephone calls cannot be scheduled, the tools we design and are available 24 hours per day on our website.
We launched MarketMatch to entice Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or what used to be called Food Stamps) shoppers to the Crescent City Farmers Market by matching families’ first $25 they spend with our Market money — wooden tokens we call Crescents. During our four month pilot, we increased SNAP redemption by 600% with $10,000 in private funds. Months later, they remain 300% higher than before. Ever since USDA replaced paper coupons with electronic benefit cards, SNAP consumers have not had the opportunity to patronize farmers markets. We’re making up for lost time meeting families half-way. When they purchase fresh, healthy and local foods with, we match them. We reward the risk they take to venture into the culinary unknown turf of a farmers market.
A Portal to Opportunity. On average, Crescent City Farmers Market vendors sell $31,348 in goods each Market day directly to shoppers. However, sales don’t stop there. Maybe you’ve seen the chefs like Cochon’s Stephen Stryjewski or A Mano’s Joshua Smith haul off boxes of produce and pork they serve at their restaurants. Or maybe you’ve noticed the crates of fruit, milk and eggs that organizers haul away to the fledgling Hollygrove Market for resale. Or, consider this the next time you bite into Hubig’s blueberry pie. The filling was grown by J&D Farms in Mississippi, thus demonstrating that the Market keeps contributing to the regional economy long after the closing bell has rung.
In 2005 when the storm surge flooded our world, we took the strategic position that the relationships we valued during a decade of running the Market should be shared with the funders. Where we could, we introduced supply to demand. While re-granting may not be a signature activity of marketumbrella.org, we believed that extraordinary circumstances called for extraordinary actions. For nearly two-years, we gave the fledgling Food and Farm Network free office space. We re-granted $250,000 in private and public funds to partner organizations important in the recovery process: Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, and the Ocean Springs Fresh Market. We also provided the national Farmers Market Coalition with its founding grant as an independent organization that shares our belief that farmers markets are good for everyone.
When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed the Gulf Coast commercial fishing infrastructure, we teamed up with families whose livelihoods depended upon their seizing the moment. With some, we marched ubto New York and San Francisco beneath the banner of the White Boot Brigade. Others grappled with how best to replace a lost infrastructure with home grown ingenuity. Where we found it, we filmed it. If we couldn’t, we traveled to where the innovations can inform a future for Gulf Coast fisheries. In 35 short teaching films that appear on our YouTube channel, we celebrate what’s best in the bayou — where traditional knowledge meets cutting edge harvest, post-harvest and marketing innovations. Visit our YouTube Channel here.
we swipe your credit and debit cards and turn them into Market money —
wooden tokens you spend like cash, the $1 administrative fee helps to
offset the costs associated with the SNAP cards. When you contribute an
additional $1 cash infusion to the Crescent Fund,
you make an investment in the regional Market community. Inspired by
micro finance projects in the developing world and alternative
philanthropy traditions modeled by African American giving circles, we
blend the two concepts into one. Each quarter, we seek proposals for
cash infusions from Market vendors, shoppers, and the wider community
for projects that benefit the public good. We then turn to the Market
community to vote where they’d like to see funds invested. In its first
year, we have distributed $4,500 to nine different projects. Recipients
pay the community back through time, talent or treasure. For more information, visit the Crescent Fund. Democracy in action: shoppers and vendors vote for where to invest the $500 Crescent Fund cash infusions.
Annual budget: $1.2 million
Annual economic Impact of the Crescent City Farmers Market: $8.9 million
Annual gross receipts at the CCFM: $3.1 million
Annual gross receipts in adjacent neighborhoods by CCFM shoppers: $1.8 million
Annual value of Market token sales: $292,000
Increase in 2009 SNAP redemptions: 400%
Value of our MarketMatch (FMNP and SNAP): $19,800
Number of Marketeer Club members: 375
Number of films on our YouTube channel: 45
Number of PDF Shares on our website to grow market capacity: 22
Number of Markets with whom we have worked in 2009: 41
Number of CCFM vendors: 57
Number of annual visitors to the CCFM: 98,600
Number of Market Morsel subscribers: 3,952
Number of Green Plate Special plate lunches served in 2009: 6,000
Amount we’ve raised in 2009 for the WWNO radio fundraisers with Market tokens: $24,000
While we are truly proud of how our work continues to grow, we will never forget that our work begins and ends with the opening and closing bells at the Crescent City Farmers Market. It serves as our laboratory for innovation and as the bread and butter for a regional community of family enterprises who harvest the fruits of their labor and sell it directly to shoppers twice weekly, rain or shine, in the heart of New Orleans.
We need Community Members to help us unfurl umbrellas year-round and for years to come. Please consider becoming a Crescent City Farmers Market Community Member with a tax-deductible contribution to marketumbrella.org.
Co-founder, Executive Director
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.