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Youth-driven farmers market open to all

LAPLACE — When California native Yishmene Edwards moved to St. John the Baptist Parish in 2011, she noticed a scarcity of activities for local youth.

As a mother, grandmother and longtime advocate for children, Edwards made it a priority to provide more opportunities to young people through her work with River Region Children’s Association.

Edwards and other representatives of RRCA recently celebrated the grand opening of Le Kids Market, an extension of the pre-existing Farmer’s & Community Market that aims to encourage healthy living and support economic development in St. John Parish.

Located at 2335 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace on the Tractor Supply parking lot, Le Kid’s Market allows children to create and sell their own food and craft items to the community and raise money for their schools, senior trips, special causes or for their pockets.

In addition to raising money, Le Kids Market helps young vendors develop entrepreneur skills, increase social skills and make new friends in a safe, expressive environment, according to Edwards.

“It’s a place where children can be themselves and share ideas,” Edwards said. “The rule is that everything needs to be handmade.”

Items sold at the Farmer’s & Community Market may include desserts, prepared food, produce, hand–crafted artifacts, jewelry, gifts, paintings, sculptures, woodwork and other crafts, Edwards said.

Vendor space is available and there is no fee to participate. Children up to 18 are allowed to participate, and those 18 and older are permitted to take part if they are enrolled in a Louisiana high school or other educational services.

A responsible adult must accompany each child, Edwards said, but adults should refrain from taking control of the table or inhibiting children from expressing themselves.

Beginning next month, Le Kids Market will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first Saturday of every month, and the Farmer’s & Community Market will be open on the same days from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Edwards has seen a lot of support from people in neighboring parishes, and she’s hoping to see more involvement from St. John residents in coming months.

“We had a handful of kids for the grand opening,” Edwards said. “For me, it was a success. If you can help one participant and have them raise money, it’s a success.”

She said growing a presence in the community takes time, noting the RRCA Farmer’s and Community Market made its debut in May with only two vendors and has expanded in recent months.

Edwards hopes the community aspect of the market allows it to thrive during months when produce is not in season.

“Farming is seasonal, but the community is what opens it up to be year-round,” Edwards said. “I believe the community market can be good for not only promoting economic growth of the parish but also to unify the people who live here.”

Edward’s long-term goal is to establish a community center to house River Region Children’s Association programs.

RRCA’s non-profit goal is to strengthen families and build communities by providing access to opportunities that support education, healthy lifestyles and economic growth. Services are provided to nine River Region parishes.

Volunteers are needed to supervise children during Le Kids Market operating hours and assist in updating social media accounts. Service hours may be awarded. To participate or get involved as a volunteer, call Edwards at 985-817-2312 or email yedwards@rrcala.org.