Making groceries market style
Kathryn Parker has been at the helm of the Crescent City Farmers Market for just one year. Taking over from the orgnaization's original leader, Richard McCarthy, who went on to become the Executive Director of Slow Food America, Kate says it’s been a year that has flown by so quickly, one with a never-ending learning curve.
“I thought I knew a lot about growing seasons,” she says. “But the more time I spend with the market, the more I am learning."
A Boston native who migrated south to Louisiana in 1997, Kate taught in St. John the Baptist Parish schools, before moving to New Orleans a couple of years later to teach at the very beginning of the charter school movement.
What she realized early on in this city -- with its love of food -- was that many of the dishes her students were eating provided them with only minimal nutrition. This led Kate to Tulane University and a master’s degree in public health followed by a doctorate, which she completed in 2013. The timing was perfect, since CCFM was looking for a new executive.
For Kate, one of the things she found most endearing in her new job was the personal relationships between vendors and customers. She loves that the market provides a safe space for everyone to come and interact, she says.
“All our vendors have time to talk with shoppers and with me,” Kate says. “Still, I wasn’t prepared for how many different personalities there are at the market and how special that is. There aren’t many places like it. It’s a rare thing especially in our city where there’s a lot of violence.”
Carrying on the almost two-decade tradition of a market place that welcomes folk from all walks of life, Kate is especially fond of a couple of programs created to extend the CCFM’s role in the community. One, designed to assist needy families struggling with chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension, offers “prescriptions” for fresh produce from providers such as the Daughters of Charity and Ruth U. Fertel Tulane Community Health Centers. Participants bring their “prescriptions” to CCFM and exchange them for vouchers, which they then must spend with vendors for fruits and vegetables.
Another is a “next generation” project designed for young children. It combines “taste education” with physical fitness activities and trips to the market, where the children discover for themselves what is fresh and in season.
Perhaps the most exciting recent development is the new program in the French Quarter. Each Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., locals and tourists alike can purchase fresh vegetables, seafood, breads and honey from local vendors in the French Market who are bringing their locally sourced foods back into that historic space.
People love it,” Kate says. “It’s a great place just to meet up with folk. We serve coffee. There are lots of table to sit at. There’s music and, best of all, free parking. We validate two hours in the parking lot behind the French Market. You can’t beat that”.
So what does year two have in store for Kate Parker? Well, hard to believe, she says, but 2015 will be the 20th anniversary of the Crescent City Farmers Market. So the priority coming up is to plan the biggest and most fun celebration.
Crescent City Farmers Markets dates:
Tuesdays: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. 200 Broadway St.
Wednesdays: 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. 1235 N. Peters St.
Thursdays: 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. 3700 Orleans Ave.
Saturdays: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. 700 Magazine St.
For more information about Crescent City Farmers Market, call (504) 495-1459
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]