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Monday, May 22, 2017

Market to Market

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Area farmers’ markets offer rich bounty

To market, to market, but which should you choose? Why not try them all? North Louisiana is home to hundreds of local farmers, chefs and artisans who love to participate in the face-to-face atmosphere and nostalgia of the local farmers’ market. The pure essence of summertime can be found when visiting the bounty of farmers’ markets right here in our community.

The best advice for attending any area farmers’ market is bring money. When pressed to pick five must-have items, every single person interviewed found it hard to narrow his or her shopping list down to just five. Seems there is always more you’ll want at a market than you can carry home with you.

Chris Graham runs the Bossier City Farmers’ Market, and he admittedly found it tough to pick his top five market must-haves. “As market manager, it’s tough for me to pick favorites, and I try to spend a little money with all the vendors,” he said. “But one of my new favorites this year is crepes. Part of my Saturday routine is eating a snack before I set up and, at the end of the day, taking hot food home with me to eat after I’ve cooled off. I also like our new lumpias that are a Filipinotype egg roll from a food truck called Lumpia Pinoy.”

“Next, I’d have to say a favorite is the wonderful fresh produce and vegetables,” Graham said. “The greens are my favorite. I prepare them old-school, like any southerner, with a piece of smoked bacon or pork. The greens are coming in so full and flavorful now that I’ve even taken them home and chopped them up in a mixed salad.”

“Another of my favorites is Mouth Full of Joy breads, which are baked the night before,” Graham said. “They actually post pictures of them baking on their Facebook page the night before.”

“Number five will have to be the brisket – or the fresh gulf shrimp,” Graham said, laughing. “Let’s just say my number five is brisket and fresh gulf shrimp. But we sell everything you need there. I’m literally staring at a bag of potatoes, green onions and squash, and I never leave without a few dozen farm eggs.”

The Bossier City Farmers’ Market has several new vendors this year. “We now have spices and seasonings, brisket and tamales, farm-raised butter and dairy, and duck eggs.

Tin Porch sells locally raised pork, beef, chicken, and it’s all organic and grass fed. It’s frozen so you can just take it with you,” Graham said.

The Bossier City Farmers’ Market is located in the parking lot of Pierre Bossier Mall at I-20 and Airline, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through November. A list of vendors and activities can be found at www.bossiercityfarmersmarket. com, or follow their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ BossierCityFarmersMarket.

Head down Benton Road for the fourth annual Benton Farmers’ Market on Sundays from noon until 4 through July 23. This old-time market features free admission with over 50 booths of locally grown produce, meats and seafood, plants, honey, artisan food products such as baked goods, jellies, pickles and delicious lunch food choices. The market features live music each Sunday, such as Red Chute Revue. Benton Farmers’ Market is located on 495 Simpson Street in Simpson Street Park just two blocks off Hwy. 3/Benton Road.

The Benton Farmers’ Market is a familyfriendly event in the park with live music, playground equipment, cow train rides and kid-friendly foods. The Benton market also hosts special events such as the Ask a Farmer Scavenger Hunt, Bossier Parish Library activities, the Party Farm’s petting zoo and a Splash Day in the Park. Woodcarvers, wildlife exhibits, Master Gardeners, beekeepers and more will be on hand to enlighten all ages. Watch the market’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BentonFarmersMkt) for weekly updates. A list of vendors and events, as well as a map to the Benton Farmers’ Market can be found at www.bentonlafarmersmarket.com.

Across the river, the Shreveport Farmers’ Market located in Festival Plaza in downtown Shreveport will debut its summer season Saturday, June 3. Market hours are 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays from June 3 through Aug. 26, with the exception of June 17. More than 100 booths will offer produce, meat, honey, plants and delicious artisan food products, with over 30 of the booths containing agricultural goods produced within 100 miles of Shreveport. For more information, visit www.shreveportfarmersmarket.com, or follow Shreveport Farmers’ Market on Facebook for updates.

Noma Fowler-Sandlin manages the Shreveport Farmers’ Market. “The Market Café has lots of new vendors,” she said. ‘Ki’ Mexico has graduated and is too busy with their popular business that started out at our farmers’ market. We have new vendors in the cafe waiting to become as popular as Ki’ Mexico.”

“One new vendor is selling dehydrated camping meals,” Fowler-Sandlin said. “It’s called Ketostew, and it’s by a young man named Andrew Garcia. These are lightweight, small foods to take camping, where you rehydrate them.”

Fowler-Sandlin’s top five picks from Shreveport Farmers’ Market go back to the agrarian movement she loves. “We have over 30 people involved in agriculture, such as farmers, ranchers, bee keepers and gardeners,” she said. “Berries. Without a doubt. Burpless cucumbers (English cucumbers), meat and zucchini, because we have been on low-carb diets, and we have a little device that makes zucchini into noodles. My last market musthave is soap.”

Neighborhood markets are also fun, quick trips with great variety, such as The Provenance Homegrown Farmers’ Market (www.facebook.com/YourProvenance) and the Shreveport Summer Market at Mall St. Vincent in South Highlands (www.facebook. com/shreveportsummermarket). With such an embarrassment of riches, many veteran market fans understandably find it hard to narrow it down to their top five must-have items on market day. Melody Silvio primarily goes for the fellowship. “The early morning stroll through all the fresh fruits, vegetables, jellies, plants and flowers ends up with breakfast with a local musician always there to entertain,” she said. “The ambiance with neighbors meeting neighbors, friends running into friends they haven’t seen in so long.”

“My favorite items are the baked breads and the canned veggies,” Silvio said. “That is why I live for the Farmers’ Market annually. I go for the fresh veggies, people’s jellies and relishes, baked goods and live music. It makes for a great early morning.”

Patricia Hooper has also been going to area farmers’ markets for years. “It’s the atmosphere for me, but mostly everything is so nice and fresh,” she said. “The people there are often consistently the same people year after year. When my grandchildren are here, they love to go. It’s just a fun thing to do.”

“I always leave with fresh veggies,” Hooper said. “Peas are just summertime for me. The fig and honey cheese from Haute Goat Creamery is really my favorite, but the fried pies in all flavors are absolutely fabulous. The pralines there taste like they’ve just been made.

“We always get stoneground cornmeal. I like to have that in my fridge. Our favorite use for that is this salad with fresh cornbread crumbled up with veggies and bacon. The taste is just wonderful.”

Danni St. Claire-Coe is a big fan of local farmers’ markets, too. “Fresh eggs, relishes and pickled okra are my favorite items, but I look for any unique products that remind me of my younger days, really,” she said. “My grandmothers canned everything they grew. If it could be pickled or preserved, you bet my Memaw would try.”

“Our children all love fresh fruits and vegetables,” said St. Claire-Coe, “so they go quick. A lot of salads and fruit bowls are eaten after a trip to the market.”

“It takes a lot of love and care to grow and make food products,” she added. “It is important for my children to see that. They all love any kind of celebration or gathering of people. Meal times are important for fellowship in our home, and they’re always excited to sit down afterwards and enjoy the bounty together.”

St. Claire-Coe has a true appreciation for the spirit of the market and the local farm scene. “The Shreveport Farmer’s Market has so much to offer, and each year I am more impressed by how hard our local farmers work to produce quality, home-grown food,” she said. “Having lived in southern California for almost eight years, I am no stranger to a farmers’ market. There were fresh fruits, vegetables and homemade treats on every corner near our Palm Springs and San Marcos homes. Almost every Thursday we would walk down to the street fair to grab a flat of strawberries, have a bag of fresh kettle corn and lemonade made right in front of our eyes. Those times were special for our little ones. Having something like that here, in my hometown, is an amazing feeling. I am proud to know that so many people are working on sustainable food production, and are willing to offer that to our community.”

–Susan Reeks

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