It was 20 years ago today…

…that Crescent City Farmers Market began to have it’s say. September 30, 1995 is remembered by many as the first day of the food and market movement in New Orleans and really, the entire region. And it all began with a market of 12 vendors (about half rural farmers and the rest urban growers), most of whom sold out in an hour or two.

Founded by three local activists of varied interests and backgrounds, John Abajian, Sharon Litwin and Richard McCarthy, CCFM has grown into a four-day per week, year-round anchor for regional food and public health activism with an impact in the tens of millions.

To get a sense of the evolution here are some of the most significant moments captured among the many past press releases and some of my own memories:

circa 2000 (the second location at Uptown Square had opened only a few months earlier):

The Saturday and Tuesday Markets’ combined now average over 65 small-scale farmers, fishermen, community gardeners, food producers and over 2,000 shoppers each week. The farmers are now coming from three states and fishing families from all over southeast Louisiana. In a June 1999 economic impact study conducted by students at the A.B Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, it reveals that the Saturday morning market generates over $1 million in direct economic impact benefiting market vendors and downtown businesses, thus creating a new vision of regional cooperation.”

circa 2006 (the original plan to celebrate the 10th anniversary in 2005 was lost in the aftermath of the levee breaks of Hurricane Katrina, so the “Re10th” was held in 2006):

“On Saturday, August 27, 2005, market staffers Richard McCarthy and Darlene Wolnik were at the Saturday Market mapping out plans for autumn 2005: Saturday Market’s tenth anniversary… Plans were interrupted by the anxious talk of a little known storm that had just entered the Gulf of Mexico — Katrina. …On this anniversary date, the Saturday Market invites members of the culinary diaspora to return home to the mother of all markets in the region. While the family of Crescent City Farmers Markets is half of its pre-storm size of four, co-founder Richard McCarthy explains, “Give it time; we now have twice the verve.

circa 2010 (The market had reopened its third market earlier in the year, the first in a previously flooded neighborhood and created the first of its kind, a market incentive program for fishing community families undone by the April BP oil spill, funded by Wholesome Wave.

Interestingly, at this anniversary Market Umbrella was just a baby, as it had finally became its own 501(c) organization in 2008 after spending the first 14 years at Loyola University as the ECOnomics Institute, housed at the Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice):

As it celebrates its 15th anniversary, Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM) hosts a four-course dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico  Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m. Chef Spencer Minch will use seasonal ingredients from CCFM farmers to prepare the meal.

circa 2015 (market organizers gave buttons to the vendors noting how long each had been a vendor of the market to wear on the 20th anniversary. A few of those):

“Can you believe it’s been 20 years since we first opened our umbrellas at the muraled Reily parking lot at Magazine and Girod? When Richard McCarthy, Sharon Litwin and John Abajian co-founded the Crescent City Farmers Market in 1995, they aimed to create a public space where New Orleanians could meet, greet, and make groceries that were fresh and produced locally…Join us this Saturday as we raise a toast to 20 years of the Crescent City Farmers Market. We’ll have music from the Roamin’ Jasmine starting at 9 a.m. and cake from Rivista and beet lemonade from Amanda to pass around at 10 a.m. You may even see some old faces coming out to make an appearance.”

Raise your glass to another 20 years.

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