Drive-thru farmers market report for 4/05/2020, New Orleans LA

 

Today my local farmers markets reopened as strictly drive-thru. No question that it was a great success in terms of the order levels (reported by vendors as I motored through) and the appreciation from shoppers. In addition, the staff looked MUCH more relaxed than they did with their once-only, timed entry, open-air market pilot that happened in mid March.

Our Baton Rouge-based Red Stick Farmers Markets are doing drive-thru markets as well, but slightly differently, as it is not entirely pre-orders. Keep an eye on the BREADA website to see what Copper Alvarez and her team come up with next.

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Executive Director Kate Parker at entrance of today’s market

For some background:

The Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans LA is normally held in parking lots around the city 6-7 times per week year round (one or two locations have been seasonal, and one recently closed for good, but they are almost always running 6 markets or more per week.) This entity’s parent organization, Market Umbrella,  has long been known for their innovative work to increase access and provide support to regional farmers and small businesses.

The CCFM vendors are almost all only direct-to-consumer businesses with a smidgen of side-door restaurant sales, although most of the chefs around town simply come to the market and buy what they need. From my experience as Deputy Director 2001-2011 this is because most of the vendors are not able to do delivery or even invoice sales because they are so small, so understaffed, or so far away. After all, this is a commodity-driven region that has mostly resisted building support for DTC farmers. And yes, the Deep South does seem to be even worse than most areas across the US.  So even in good times, its pretty rough for these farmers and businesses to find resources or support to pivot or to do multiple types of channels.

The market organization decided that walk up markets would not work for them for the duration of this emergency, for many reasons I am sure. I believe that each organization gets to decide exactly how they will handle this moment and so I won’t let my friends complain to me about these markets not being held as they were, especially not without offering good solutions for the market to be safe and for vendors to not lose money. Of course, this aligns with my long-held market TA response about which rules a new market should adopt: I answer (probably maddeningly) “use those rules that are understandable to your team, to your vendors, and to your shoppers and stakeholders. After all, you need to defend them and explain why you have them.”  So the same thing goes for this moment too. And all of that market context around rules has to co-exist within the rules (if they exist) set by your local municipality, county, and/or state.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere, for markets our usual go-to agency is agriculture, which  in this case has been mostly unable to do much to help us, as this is not a food-borne virus.  Instead, it’s been public health or disease control making the decisions,  agencies which often have less awareness or fewer partnerships with  open-air farmers markets and so less understanding of our protocols.

So that’s number one. Do what is best for your organization and your vendors. Just be transparent with your shoppers and stakeholders exactly WHAT that decision is and HOW it was made.

Next, how to order: First, it’s important to share that this very sophisticated, well-advised, well-staffed organization attempted an preorder app a few years back and it was not a success, so they shelved it.   After they closed their walk-in market a few weeks back, they instead began by partnering on a box program with a 3rd party entity where the local items are pre-selected and can be paid for with SNAP or other cards. It costs 40.00 and is also available for delivery. I have only seen a few pics and it looked a little light to me, but that just may be how the pictures have been taken. I think many regular and new market shoppers are perfectly fine with this box, but it seems that many others were not and that many of their vendors were unwilling or unable to sell this way. I am one of those unwilling to do a preorder box and instead I reached out to those vendors I usually purchase from and made arrangements with them whenever possible. I also took advantage of some of these other choices below:

  1. A couple of market vendors began working with local chefs to sell a box directly from only one farm at their restaurant:

 

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Just checked their site; all sold out for now!

  1. Another version has been coffeehouses et al adding local produce to their long list of items they will pack up as a preorder. My local heroes here are Good Karma Cafe because they offer coffee, tea, their tinctures, their prepared items, and are selling the produce without asking any fees from those farmers. They need the local goods themselves for their prepared items, and they feel they benefit by adding customers who want a little local produce. And they truly believe in the quality of locally grown items. There are others around town doing something similar from what I am hearing.
  2. The local news featured a farm which usually sells only to restaurants selling boxes to walk ups outside one of those shuttered places. Not sure yet how that is working but it seems to be doing well.
  3. We had a few (and I mean a few, maybe 1 or 2)  farm aggregators selling to consumers already running successfully with farmers Kate and Grant Estrade from Laughing Buddha Nursery as the model that everyone else should learn from. (LBN is their longstanding retail nursery shop and their farm is called Local Cooling Farms.) They tell me that demand is way up, and even though a few of their usual farmers are using one of the other above methods and don’t need to sell through LBN as of now, that allowed them to pick up new farmers. And instead of doing their usual 6-7 drop offs at their hub partner sites around town each week, they are selling only at their nursery which has refrigeration and allows them to set up contactless pick up. (This couple should be doing monthly webinars for DTC farmers and maybe, sooner or later, they will have enough time to do just that. I’m a big fan as you can tell.)

Okay, so how well did the drive-thru market work?

At the beginning of this post,  I mentioned the level of vendor sales channel diversity because it matters.  I understand via a quick convo with market staff through face masks that getting this small group of vendors ready for this was a HUGE undertaking, which is no surprise to me. The vendors that agreed to participate were listed on the organization’s website with the items they would have, the cost for each, and the way to order from each individually (phone or text or email) and the manner to pay (Paypal, Venmo, manual card entry over phone, etc.)

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I say small group because the number of vendors today were far fewer than their usual open-air market. I understand that some told the market “I can’t sell enough to do pre-orders, so no thanks.” (And again, every vendor ALSO has the right to decide what works for their business without scorn, but I do believe when they hear how well this went for those this week, more will want to try it. I can tell you that this reticence is based on their experience with a half-dozen 3rd party hubs around town over the last decade which all started up to great acclaim and then all shuttered, often still owing them money.)

Other vendors told the market casually that they would take try it and take orders over the phone not knowing how many people would call in the first few hours! I think part of this was that news of this came to most through the local media, and only a few days before the actual market.  So that type of publicity made it much bigger than it might have been without. (I might suggest that small less-staffed or experienced markets try week one through just reaching out to their email list at first if possible. Maybe ask local writers to hold the story until after week 1 is in the books-that is if the market is confident enough in their list.)

As a result of the great publicity, and the deep attachment to this market with its 25 years of service, vendor voicemail mailboxes were immediately full. And when  vendors called folks back, I’m not sure that each figured out they needed to do it in order of earliest calls to the latest, so it may be that some of those who called earliest lost out. (I think that happened to me with one vendor. And no biggie. I’l get them next week)

Some vendors did texting which seemed to work pretty well but to work it needed to be confirmed and sent to payment immediately. I tried two that were listed as text orders and only one called back. The one who did, did it exactly right- texted me the total, told me their Venmo account and I paid immediately.

Clearly, this requires that there is one person handling orders for each vendor for the open window period.  And that is easier said than done. (I’ll do another post on vendors next week with some feedback I received. Let me just say that the few I had time to answer me were very positive on this as a short-term solution during this pandemic but clearly exhausted from the added work. One vendor told me on camera he came close to his usual Saturday market in terms of the number of sales (he had 92 preorders, and he estimated that he usually gets 120 or so transactions over 4 hours at the Saturday market)  but didn’t meet or exceed his usual Saturday because “his system wasn’t ready for this.” And he promised he will get better at it. I’d also suggest that the anecdotal data from markets across the US seems to indicate that the average sale is higher than the normal market in present circumstances. Likely because people buy more, and we are also hearing that meat vendors are doing tremendously well.)

Location

In terms of where to hold this market and when, the organization had some (I assume informal) help from City Hall. Most of their current locations were not going to work as a drive through; sadly, one of their best locations has had too many cases of Covid-19 at the assisted living place that is situated on the same property to hold this there.  City Hall employee and engineer Jennifer Ruley, who has been working on safe street programs for almost 20 years stepped up. (I wrote last month about finding partners for this moment). She and the Market Umbrella E.D. Kate Parker were well acquainted from neighborhood work that both have been doing for decades. The team chose the parking lot of the most popular and community-minded po-boy* shop in town, which has been closed for the duration and is right next to the new multi-use greenway that MU wanted to use but was not available because of other uses. Jen met with market staff and Parkway owners on Saturday to think through traffic design. See their map below.

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Lafitte Street is under construction as part of the Greenway, and has houses on only one side. It has 6-7 side streets that dead end into this street and two major avenues on either end.

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Orange was entrance, green was exit.

All in all, I’d say that it worked beautifully. The main problem that I saw was that a few folks came down the side streets and poked in the line which, honestly, most of those already in line let go and didn’t get all screamy on them. (after all, why? your order was already made.) And really, most shoppers politely went to the end of the line without urging. The other traffic issue that can be easily corrected next time was that the police should have closed the street off to all other traffic. Folks were turning on to the street unaware of the market, to simply drive somewhere and often got caught up in the crawl. Additionally, the street should have been made only one way towards the market for these hours, and all shoppers directed to the far end avenue (Broad) to turn on to Lafitte. Again, all easily fixed for next time.

Yet this location seems like it is going to top out around 16-18 vendors and so the question becomes does CCFM add another location while keeping this one for the duration for that number of vendors, or just go find one big spot for all of their drive thru markets and vendors?  Seems like some of the vendors feel like 2 locations a week may max their ability to take orders and to take those, but they may feel differently as time goes on. If they add a second location what would the criteria be? (My guess is easy access from main streets and from many parts of town, large parking lot with a fence or barricade around it to maintain safety and keep pedestrians out, in or near zip codes where there is density of drivers/shoppers, a well known location, vendor restroom access, and a partner/host to help.)

Once in line, one CCFM staffer came down, said a cheerful hello and explained how it would work, and asked shoppers to get their trunks open before entering. Another staffer wrote the shoppers name on a piece of paper that was then stuck on the outside of the window so vendors could see the names and get their orders up.

 

You drove in, made the circle with vendors checking your name and putting your orders in the truck. The last would close it for you.

I understand they figured out how to do some SNAP sales, but as I didn’t bother them any longer than I had to so I’ll have to get more info later. (One way this may work is for those shoppers to have their pre-orders total written out, separated by  vendor and swipe their card for the total as they arrive and attach the paid receipt on the window for each vendor to see it was paid. Or have them place the orders as everyone else does, and the vendors to pack those and hand them to the market org before the bell rings to process on the machine in another line.)

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CCFM tent at entrance/exit which (maybe) could still process SNAP?

a few issues:

There were too many vendors without PPE at all, no gloves or masks. All CCFM staff were equipped and had their market t-shirt on to make clear who they were, led by their E.D. who again, was out there at the entrance checking on everything. (I appreciate that she seems to give herself the toughest public relation job in these instances.) I am SURE that CCFM strongly suggested that vendors equip themselves but clearly too many had not paid much attention or could not find any.  (One idea that I will float via my own social media  is for fervent CCFM shoppers to purchase cloth masks made by locals for their favorite vendors, and maybe get them a pair or cleaning gloves to wear if nothing else.  Since no money is changing hands, there is little need for dexterity.  I am sure that many of your shoppers would be happy to help get masks made and could possibly get gloves and sanitizer for your vendors too. Update: within 15 minutes of me posting it, local people are getting masks made for these vendors! )

Big purchasers versus small. Some cars were stopping at every vendor and some only were picking up one or two items. No one seemed impatient so maybe this is not an issue at all! (It may work to stagger those by the number of vendor pickups one has, so that those with fewer transactions come later. Still to do that would require a LOT more work for the organization and it simply may not matter when vendors get better at this.)

How to check orders. Vendors were madly looking through page after page of orders, which didn’t seem to be in alphabetical order. (It might be helpful for the market organization to offer a simple spreadsheet that they can use for their orders and/or then print them out for everyone in order.It might also help for the organization to also have shoppers – when they arrive – list the market location number of each vendors who they had an order with, so if vendor #4 isn’t marked, vendor #4 doesn’t need to look through their list.)

Impact on the neighborhood. This needs to part of the measurement for any market: the positive and the negative impact on that area. Too often, markets only measure economic impact- which should always be measured – but also should also view the effect of noise, cars, trash, and other impacts on that area. These neighbors, without warning, had a line of cars belching exhaust into their houses for a few hours at a time when the weather is so beautiful that every window is probably open. It may help to stagger shoppers by time, to add another market day in another area, or to simply ask folks to turn their car off and let the police move clusters of cars at a time. I’ll find out more about how many cars came through but it sounded like the line was down to only a block long after an hour or so.

CCFM line in first hourDrive Thru

Costs. The design did require more staff than a regular market day and clearly a lot more planning was required. It did require police which I would assume will have to be reimbursed.  And the fees per vendor are assessed at a flat rate in this organization;  as the numbers of vendors were clearly lower than they would normally be during this extremely busy market season**, they will have less income there. I will say that the partnership with Parkway Bakery was inspired because they also came and helped, AND gave each car a free bag with a roast beef po-boy, local chips and water. And they have a very well-tended lot.

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local chips, roast beef po-boy, branded memo pad, paper hat,  and a water bottle.

 

All in all, I hope these vendors and this staff sleep well tonight, knowing they have pulled off an extremely delicate and complicated market day. And that we deeply thank them.

I’ll let a shopper give the last word with what he told me after he picked up his items:

“It is a blessing, no matter how long it takes.”

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Director of Markets Angelina Harrison watching it all.

 

 

**We’re in the middle of berry, lettuce, and just beginning tomato season and the weather is great in March and April here, usually low humidity and little rain which is holding true this year.

 

 

Food court or food hall: is there a difference?

To answer my own question to start:
I think there may be at least two instructive differences: one is that the food hall is about food AND social space and not simply an amenity offered while doing other retail shopping; second, the quality of the food is meant to be more artisanal or at least, of a higher quality than what most U.S. food courts offer. The food hall may be what James Rouse had in mind when he began to develop the festival marketplace decades back. Unfortunately just like that idea, the food hall will probably soon be used to describe every half-formed pitch for food aggregation that doesn’t really mean the same thing at all.

In one new food hall in New Orleans (St. Roch Market), the location had served as a public market long ago and is still owned by the city , but since 2005, the city had struggled with finding anyone who would manage the site to offer food to the neighborhood. One issue was the price tag needed to renovate the structure that the city wanted to split with the user. Another was the lack of parking and (small) size. Still, in terms of conversation among locals about how it should be used, it was a very hot property. I was even asked to write about this particular site  before the food hall idea had been fully formed:

Finally from a need to check it off the “done”lost, the city did a smaller renovation and chose a young entrepreneur to develop it from the white box they offered. Since its opening, it has become a bit of a lightning rod about trendy food places and gentrification. It has its defenders, mostly millennials and visitors to the city, who use it for easy-to-plan group meet-ups with food and drink.

Some of the original group of vendors chosen have already moved on and some of their issues led one alternative paper to accuse the operators of cronyism. Other vendors have moved to other locations better suited to their demographic or operational needs.
Then there was a late-night graffiti spree caught on video that started another round of pros and cons on the site’s current use while on the edge of one poor neighborhood and directly across from a more gentrified one.
I have heard that since the opening of St. Roch the operator is being asked to develop 2-3 more of these food halls, with at least one in New Orleans and another in Florida.

Clearly, this trend requires some watching for food organizers and maybe some local analysis.
BI story on food halls

 

Patron saints of food, Mardi Gras style

Monday the 27th and Tuesday the 28th of February are the final days of two months of Carnival in New Orleans this year, which means it has been a particularly  long season! The season always begins on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th and ends the day before Ash Wednesday, known as “Fat Tuesday” or in French as Mardi Gras. This is because New Orleans essentially remains a Catholic city and takes Lent (more or less) seriously. Lent of course is the religious season to prepare for Easter.  The date of Easter changes because it is literally a “moveable feast ” (feast meaning religious observance, not food party!), linked to Passover which changes based on when the Passover (Paschal) full moon falls. (Wonderful to  see how many religious and secular traditions are based on the natural world’s rhythms..)

Today,  I am highlighting the local work of Dames de Perlage (Women of Beadwork) who used the theme of “Patron Saints of New Orleans” for their 2017 krewe. Each member spend their nights and “off-time” throughout the year designing and beading a new beaded corset and headdress and making the relevant costume based on the theme they choose after the previous Carnival. Each corset takes 150 or so more hours to make each.  This krewe marches with brass bands in a few parades and are a delight to see in person.

Great podcast with one of their krewe members describing the work they do and how parading works for those unfamiliar with them. Many of the riders and marching groups craft their throws and costume work in community get-togethers over the year. Pride in handmade items remains a vital part of the New Orleans culture as does the tradition of handing down skills.

These are some of the “saints” beadwork that I chose because of the connection to food and farming:

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Dan Gill, our longtime Extension Agent for Orleans Parish (county) and now a writer and radio host. answering everyone’s horticulture questions.

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This is amazing beadwork and costuming highlighting a Carnival/spring tradition: crawfish boils!

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The great chef Leah Chase is honored for her many contributions to New Orleans food and 7th ward culture. That is an excellent likeness of this great woman.

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This is my favorite one, and just coincidentally made by my pal Rachel. This is St. Satsuma which honors the citrus we see at markets starting in October and ending this week or next.

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Chef Paul Prudhomme, patron saint of jambalaya!

Helen Hill

Today is the sad anniversary of organizer/writer/filmmaker Helen Hill’s murder. New Orleanians, Canadians, South Carolinians, Californians and a slew of other oddballs and creative types are thinking of our dear Helen today.

Helen was daughter, sister,  mother, wife, friend. Her murder sent shock waves through dozens of communities that many will never recover from, partly because there was not a more loving or angelic human (although with a sensible streak of mischief when needed) than Helen. Partly because in true New Orleans fashion, the police never even turned up a suspect. Partly because her work was stopped, work so important that it has since been added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

Helen and her husband Paul came to me because of food, so that’s why this is here. I became active in the local Food Not Bombs actions which they had helped to “organize” or more appropriately, to encourage.  I had many fascinating conversations with them about tactics we might employ to be able to wrest food scraps from stores, including from Whole Foods. That conversation was ongoing because I worked there part-time, along with my other then part-time job at the farmers market. (That’s not as odd as it seems now because that WF location’s beginning actually predates the Austin behemeth’s ownership, back when it had been a New Orleans-only coop called Whole Foods Company. Even after the corporation bought it, it remained a funky local treasure, so my working there and at the market at the same time for a short time was not that farfetched.)

Their vegan potlucks were legendary, as were her vegan tea parties. Paul and Helen also knew my market boss, fellow vegetarian activist Richard McCarthy, and through him had begun to bring their pig Rosie to our market events. I remember once Helen called me before a scheduled visit to ask details as to where Rosie would be set up; turns out she was worried that Rosie would be within sight of meat vendors and would be distressed. I was at first amused, thinking she was slightly joking, but of course she was not. Sobering up, I assured her that every precaution would be taken for Rosie to be happy and comfortable that day. Forever after, Helen treated me as Rosie’s protector.

I was thrilled like many others when news came of their return to New Orleans after Katrina. Helen had asked many to send postcards to Paul to convince him to return. Happily, he did; sadly, that return was so very short.

This link is to a film Helen made for Rosie about her genealogy. This one is about the life of chickens, a motif  she often used  in her art.

From her award-winning film Scratch and Crow:

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There are dozens and dozens of tributes to Helen, but viewing her films and hearing about her Poppy growing up under the wise and gentle hand of his father is the tribute she’d like  most of all. So please enjoy and share her lovely films whenever possible.

 

 

 

 

Thanks, 700 Magazine Street

New Orleans-In 2016, Crescent City Farmers Market announced that the flagship Saturday morning farmers market – held at the corner of Magazine and Girod since 1995 – would need to find a new home by fall. As the new market era at Julia and Carondelet begins, one-time market staff and long-time shopper Dar Wolnik looks back on the muraled parking lot.

 

The circa 1991 mural of a coffee wagon heading to a small town store and Reily Foods’  prized chinaberry tree set this parking lot apart from others in the CBD.

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The original mural. This part has since been destroyed by the developers.

Why a market?

In 1995, two of the Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM) founders – the late, sorely missed Sharon Litwin, and the geographically departed, sorely missed, but still kicking Richard McCarthy – realized its potential as the home for their upcoming market, and arranged to meet with the Reily Foods patriarch. Richard often shared the story of how when he completed his pitch, Boatner asked how much money he was requesting. Richard replied, “I don’t want your money, I want your parking lot Saturday mornings.” Reily was reportedly charmed by the request and gratified that his new mural and the carefully tended tree would serve as the host for this idea. Their handshake agreement between CCFM and Reily lasted for 21 years until Boatner’s passing.

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The garage mural and the garage as seen from Girod Street. The Magazine Street entrance to the parking lot is to the middle right of the photo. There is also a mural on the wall to the left of this photo, some of which was preserved by the developers.

The warehouse district used to be full of buildings just like it, but just like this one’s fate in the very near future, they were torn down for shiny, much taller buildings. The garage behind the mural served as the parking for weekday Reily employees and became where the rainy day markets were held, with storage rooms around its edges and an off-limits parking area at the back.

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Inside the garage

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The flower ladies stop for a quick discussion on an “inside” market day.

The inside garage was affectionately nicknamed “Little Calcutta” for the humidity and humanity it contains when used by the market.  One of the larger garage doors hadn’t opened since early 2005; after a while, the track became rusted and trash-filled and the market vendors learned to avoid market staff when we went to get help to open or to close it.  Certain spots in the roof would drip during heavy rains and vendors learned to set up just to the right or left. We actually marked the floor to make it easier to avoid water falling on one’s products or head, until finally, the roof was repaired. We used to dream of spiffing up the garage by whitewashing the walls and adding murals or posters, but as we say here, then Katrina happened. No other explanation should be needed.I think actual lights were added recently, which made it seem like Santa Claus had finally stopped by to reward our good behavior. Or maybe it was that the market just got around to asking the owners for those things. Sometimes it’s hard to know what and when to ask for when a place is offered free of charge and comes with donated cans of coffee too.

 

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This was the newer storage space.

The storage room used by the market was a loose description of a room at all, and had a lock on the door that probably could have been broken by an excited dog jumping at it. It also came with an air shaft/skylight in the middle of the room that supplied the only light in there. Sometimes it was better to work in the dark so that whatever critters who lived in the gloom could not be seen. I still shudder thinking about it. The current staff doesn’t believe me when I tell them that this storage space was a step up from the previous one that we finally had to evacuate. Let’s just say the less said about it, the better. And that once out of the old space, I don’t believe anyone has ever entered it again.

The outdoor lot was the true home of the CCFM though. The Girod side was open to the sidewalk with only some yellow parking barriers between. When the market was at its largest size (summer 2004-2005) vendors had to set up facing the sidewalk on that side. We found that asking farmers to squeeze into spaces with their tables touching or almost touching their fellow vendors tables was a tricky and delicate undertaking. I am sure that is no surprise to any market manager.

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Market Umbrella Executive Director Kate Parker talks about the late, legendary Diana Pinckley and her impact. That is founder Sharon Litwin in the peach shirt, who was always great about showing up for important occasions. Still miss seeing her around town.   Both are now memorialized on the wooden tokens used by the market.                                                                    R.I.P. Diana and Sharon.

 

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Isabel and Miguel Mendez and kids, 15 years

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In pictures, the mural offered an unrealistic sense of the size of the market and I often saw visitors who came to pay homage a little disappointed at the size of the actual market. I’d approach them and introduce myself and almost invariably get the “It’s…smaller than I thought it would be.” The mural could also be a point of tension as the market organization was tasked with its protection during market hours, leading to constant reminders to vendors who liked to lean things against it. The wall made the spaces right below shady for some hours, which was welcome in the summer but not in the winter. Funny to watch people congregate in different places in the market depending on the season, just like cats searching for that spot with the perfect amount of warm sun or cool shade.

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The small size of the lot meant that vendors had to “offload” their products, using the ancient, creaky Reily hand trucks or by carrying items from the vehicle one armful at a time to their tables outside. In the early days, everyone used umbrellas and one of the green, handmade tables supplied by the market making the overall site colorful and human-scaled. Once 10’ x 10” pop-up tents became available, vendors began to use those instead and a sea of white became the dominant sight. That is until the number of vendors increased and led to fights about tent poles intruding on the neighboring space and as a result, vendor tents had to be done away with although the market itself still used them for their activities. Umbrellas returned, the mural was front and center again and vendors spent many successive mornings constantly readjusting them to maximize the shade and to secure them from gusts or from wildly gesturing shoppers. I know that Richard was secretly pleased by the loss of tents, as he was always obsessed with the visuals of what we were presenting. He found umbrellas so inviting that he even renamed the organization Market Umbrella when we left Loyola University and our ECOnomics Institute name behind in 2008.

At its maximum in those years, the market welcomed a few thousand shoppers during its four hours of sales that offer a stage for successive casts of characters. Like most long-standing markets, the opening hour of 8 a.m. was for those seasoned shoppers who knew where to park, what they wanted to buy and how to get the heck outta there before the perusers came at 9 a.m. Those second-hour folks liked to chat, stick around a while and usually bought what was most appealing on that day or recommended to them right then by their friends or their favorite farmers. They grumbled about parking a great deal. After that group headed to the next cultural outing of the day, the service workers and other late-nighters slowly showed up. The number of bikes locked on all available posts and groups of bleary-eyed socializers squeezing into any available seating were good indicators of the 10 o’clock hour starting. In the last hour 11-12, one saw some tourists, those new to markets as well as a few hard-core regulars who like many New Orleanians simply do not get out of the house until around the lunch hour.

Many more subgroups, special guests, and even some “bad pennies,” all of whom made that space sparkle and hum every Saturday morning for 21 years, could be studied there as the sum of the social capital created by the market. We market staff often took the time to do just that, either from the vantage point of the low Reily building roof across Girod or while standing across the street on Magazine.

We valued that space so much that, as we began to design our fair trade/handmade market in 2002 that we called “Festivus, the Holiday Market For the Rest of Us,” we never questioned setting it up there, in the middle of Girod Street in years 1 and 2 and then on December Sundays in the same parking lot for years 3, 4 and 5 of Festivus’ run. Festivus was meant to drive sales to our farmers market during slow December and to allow our organization to move the dial a little more on the artisanal/entrepreneurial movement around us. Using the same lot for a new seasonal market meant we had freedom to design it differently and to include more wacky ideas than we could squeeze into our regular market. Many people still stop me to reminisce about the Office of Homeland Serenity, the Grievance Pole, and the Flattery Booth or some of the other moments of the 2003-2007 era of Festivus.

I consider it my great honor to have played a part in Market Umbrella’s history at that location, to have worked with the Reily Company staff and to now to be one of the local keepers of the stories about Sharon and Richard and John and the vendors and shoppers of those first days and of that space. The space itself is owed many thanks and so don’t be alarmed if at the first light on a Saturday, you notice a small group there with a bottle and glasses toasting the good fortune of having 700 Magazine as our flagship home for all of those years.

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New location at Julia and Carondelet, on the streetcar line as of 2016.

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 I was the Deputy Director of Market Umbrella and then its Marketshare Director during 2001-2011. Since then, I continue to work as a national consultant for public markets and also as the senior researcher at Farmers Market Coalition, the national farmers market advocacy organization.