Published by Robin Shannon
Published/Last Mondified on Saturday, September 17, 2011
Local farmers in St. John the Baptist Parish and surrounding areas will soon have a new more permanent location to sell the fruits and vegetables they harvest throughout the year.
A vacant three-acre tract of land on the west bank of the parish near the Veterans Memorial Bridge will be the site of the parish’s Red Barn Farmers Market. The location is not far from where local farmers typically gather to sell produce out of the back of pick up trucks.
“We have given the local farming community a centralized location for them to sell safely,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom. “Farmers often gather under the bridge with their crop, and that has become a safety concern for them as well as those people who stop to shop. The finished product will be something the community will be proud of.”
Julia Remondet, economic development director for the parish, explained the market will be housed in a 4,800 square-foot metal building that will have space for 10 16-by-14-foot open-air stalls that growers will be able to drive into with their vehicles. The front of the building will face Louisiana Highway 18 with road access at the western end of the land. The market will be on land owned by the state Department of Transportation, but the parish will be responsible for the upkeep.
“This is a big plus for the west bank in determining its future as a place for economic development for St. John Parish,” Remondet said. “It is something that is long overdue, and there are many residents very excited about the opportunity.”
Robottom said the parish spent about $46,000 to acquire the pre-fabricated building pieces for the market, which are now in storage waiting for construction. She said that some site work is necessary before a concrete slab can be poured and construction can begin. She said parish workers will do the site preparation and the electrical work. The market is slated to open in about four months.
Remondet said the market has the support of several farmers in the area who have already submitted letters of support in getting involved. She said about 15 local farmers have expressed interest in the market.
One of those farmers is Edgard resident Warren Sylvain, who has spent the last few years keeping a personal garden at his home. Sylvain said he is looking forward to the opportunity to expand his reach.
“I grow a lot of mirlitons that I consume myself but also hand out to neighbors and other friends,” Sylvain said. “I always get quite a few requests for purchase, and this will be a great way to capitalize on that.”
Fellow Edgard farmer Darryl Chauvin agreed and added it will be nice to finally have a solid, professional building for farmers in the area.
“We have never had anything like this,” Chauvin said. “There is no outlet other than the side of the road. One of the great things about this project is that it is in a perfect location where people will be able to see it coming off the bridge. There is so much more traffic along the River Road between the plantations.”
Robottom said once construction is complete, the market will be open Wednesdays, from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. An application for vendors is on the parish’s website www.sjbparish.com on the economic development page. The parish, in connection with the LSU Cooperative Extension Service, will hold workshops with vendors about policies and procedures for selling.