Indicating health

Windowsill Pies, New Orleans LA pie makers

Blueberry pie from Windowsill Pies and gluten-free pizza and shrooms from the Rue family, all from Covington Farmers Market..

Take a long look at that picture. To many, it may only show another dang food picture that was posted online but to me it represents something else entirely.
All of those goods came from the Covington Farmers Market, which is a parish (to most of you outside of Louisiana, parish=county) seat market located 40 miles from downtown New Orleans and across Lake Pontchartrain in an area of what used to be called the Ozone Belt for its pine tree greenery.
The gluten-free pizza was sold to me by a teen who was selling them on behalf of her family business and could tell me what was in their pizzas and why, could take my money and offer change with a genuine smile and good wishes. The mushrooms were on their table too and collected as a side option to their prepared food sales, as well as used in their goods.

The pie was sold to me by 2 entrepreneurs that buy their ingredients locally as often as possible (literally pointing to the honey seller that provided the basis of this pie’s lack of refined sugar). This vendor’s artistic tendencies suit their product list well, all of the way to the windowed boxes for their pies and their oil cloth tablecloth and vintage aprons presentation.
What is important to me as a shopper about this picture is that it represents a (still) unusual way of buying food; I can ask each of them exactly what is in their goods and how they were made. They are working to replace industrial ingredients with natural and closer-to-home versions that offer more taste. And of course, not only did I get a chance to talk directly with the makers of these goods and to encourage them further, but that I was able to buy from young women, all just beginning farmers market sales. All of the made goods were delicious and will be bought many times again. I may buy them for myself on a week in which I know I am just not going to feel like cooking or they may be used to share with friends when they come to spend the day at the pool or may even be brought to a party I am invited to as my gift.

Market managers know that farmers markets are THE incubator for businesses that are not ready for or do not want storefronts. The chance to take a small idea and grow it slowly and carefully is a necessary step for any entrepreneur, yet the places one can do this are so limited that markets are among the only ones that regularly offer that opportunity. Many experienced market shoppers know that when they see new goods at markets that are advanced in their ingredients and presentation, they must immediately support them vigorously and talk them up to their friends. In turn, market managers need to monitor these vendors and introduce them to those shoppers (as this market’s manager did to me) as well as search for those vendors’ new shoppers, who may not already be present.
In other words, these vendors often represent a new age in a market. Its important to remember that young vendors trying items that can only be sold at farmers markets are who we want to see more of in markets. These folks cannot (or do not) sell their goods to Whole Foods or ship them worldwide; they design products for the type of person who stops and asks about their ingredients and their process. Therefore, they are an indicator species, which is defined beautifully in the Encyclopædia Brittanica as an organism that serves as a measure of the environmental conditions that exist in a given locale.

If indicator species show the health of an environment, then their low activity can alert to danger in a market’s health or when increasing, can show vitality. Encouragement of diversity of products, gender, age, ethnicity and business goals is exactly what each market must be setting as a goal daily, weekly, monthly and so on. To me, the presence of these indicator vendors and others at this little market show its emerging strength. And offers some damn tasty research at the same time.

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