The holy annual gathering of the American Anthropological Association will be in New Orleans this coming November. In anticipation, I will periodically post food-related information about the city where I live, work and eat that our readers can use when they are here. This is the first in that series.
Back in pre-Katrina flood times, New Orleans had a few farmer’s markets (actually, if you go back far enough, the city had a remarkably large system of public markets, but that is for another post), the most notable being the system run by the Crescent City Farmer’s Market. This organization, founded in 1995, started out with one market and a few vendors from the city and the surrounding region. These markets became the place where, if I recall correctly, “rock stars shop and chefs are stars,” where, in other words, the people watching was, as is often the case in New Orleans, nearly as good as the food.
The 2005 hurricanes and floods were a huge blow to farmers, fishers and other producers at the markets, but the organizers were back at it soon after the disaster. They proved to be among the most creative and resourceful groups working to help the city rebuild and innovate in the ensuing years. Rebranding themselves as marketumbrella.org, the organization turned itself into a juggernaut promoting new ideas about markets, food, economic development and sustainability in the United States and even internationally. They run three weekly markets in New Orleans (the Saturday morning market is an easy walk from the AAA conference site) and have helped establish many of the other markets in the city and region. I think we actually have more now than we did before the disaster.
I recommend you visit the market when you are in town. But marketumbrella.org has some great resources you can check out even before you get here. The website itself has tools for people who organize markets, links to some astonishing videos (check out the Gar fishing video and all the other stuff on local seafood) and so many local and regional initiatives that it boggles the mind. Oh, and there is a picture of my daughter up there somewhere too. Last year the market published a cookbook, edited by local chef and culinary activist Poppy Tooker, The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook, which has great recipes (I’ve tried several) and even better stories (and won awards as one of the best New Orleans cookbooks in 2009). You can get lost in the site, but it may motivate you to get out there and transform your own local food system.
Posted by David Beriss