Farmers market harvests support in 1st year: RRCA Farmers and Community Market plans more growth

Published 12:20 am Saturday, May 5, 2018

LAPLACE — On the morning of the first RRCA Farmers and Community Market in May 2017, three vendors turned out to display homemade food and crafts.

Exactly one year later, nearly 20 vendors have signed onto the St. John the Baptist Parish community effort. They fill tables and tents at Tractor Supply in LaPlace from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the first Saturday of each month, bringing along uniquely crafted jewelry, clothing and woodwork.

Others bring food or desserts, and Wesley Mitchell of Sarg’s Mobile Smoke House lugs along his smoker and hog box for onsite cooking.

Attendance has grown over the past year, according to founder Yishmene Edwards. The 90-person crowd recorded last year grew to more than 300 during the market day in March.

The Sarg’s Mobile Smoke House team at the farmers market, includes, back, Jarius Leblanc, Ron Mancuso, front, Bobbie Mitchell, Robyn Mitchell and Colten Romero.

December saw the opening of Le Kid’s Market, a youth-driven addition that allows children to build entrepreneurial skills while earning money selling their creations.

In March, Edwards formed a partnership with The Blood Center to secure donation buses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at each market day, beginning with today’s anniversary celebration.

With plans to obtain a permanent location and expand past the once-a-month format within the next year, Edwards said the RRCA Farmers and Community Market has defied expectations.

“I’m out to prove, and I think I have so far, that St. John Parish can sustain a market,” Edwards said. “Our vendors are really small businesses. I want these vendors, if only once a month, to have people meet them and see what they have to offer.”

Edwards said the market is unique in that it’s not just a seasonal farmers market offering produce. Anything handcrafted is fair game, making it sustainable year-round.

Vendor Susan Haley, left, displays craft offerings, which have coupled with traditional farmers market items to provide a wide assortment of attractions for visitors to sample during each RRCA Farmers and Community Market, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month at Tractor Supply in LaPlace.

The community aspect of the market was the biggest draw for Mitchell, who brings Sarg’s Mobile Smoke House to a variety of charity events locally and regionally.

“It gives our local craft vendors a way to get their work out, but it also gives our community something to purchase locally that you’re not going to find in a store,” Mitchell said.

“It’s important to be involved in the community because we’re all supposed to support each other. When we’re out there helping each other set up, there’s a camaraderie.”

Edwards said she’s seen Mitchell’s business grow since he joined the market last summer.

“He’s the exact representation of what I want the market to do for people,” Edwards said. “He’s living proof that these vendors can be successful.”

Moving forward, Mitchell and Edwards want to see more participation from produce vendors, formal board members and involvement from River Parishes Tourist Commission. For more information, visit RRCA Farmers and Community Market on Facebook.