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New study reveals how farmers markets stimulate regional economic development

Loyola press release - September 17, 1999

(New Orleans)—The Loyola-sponsored Crescent City Farmers Market, held every Saturday morning in downtown New Orleans, has an economic impact of more than $1 million a year, according to the results of a recent study.

The Market, which celebrates its fourth birthday, Saturday, September 25, 1999, is a project of Loyola University’s ECOnomics Institute designed to initiate and promote ecologically sound economic development in the agricultural sector in the greater New Orleans region.

Other findings of the study included:

  • the average vendor takes home $391/week, for an income of over $20,000 a year from the market;
  • the additional income is spread far beyond Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, to more than seven parishes in Louisiana and at least four counties in Mississippi;
  • The Crescent City Farmers Market has resulted in 15 new businesses and 22 new jobs in its first three years. A January 1998 survey showed that the 55 businesses then operating in the market employed 98 people;
  • Downtown businesses gain additional income of $450,000 a year as a result of the Market.

The positive aspects of the Crescent City Farmers Market, and indeed, other such markets throughout the country, far exceed the low-risk, minimal capital required to launch a half-day weekly enterprise. Co-founder and Board President, Sharon Litwin, describes it this way, "in one full swoop, markets transform rural enterprises by linking them to city centers and downtown neighborhoods acquire pedestrians of all walks of life, eager to share in the joy of food and community."

The Crescent City Farmers Market, which is held every Saturday in the Warehouse/Arts district is designed to bring together farmers and fishermen from around the urban area with their city-based customers celebrates its fourth anniversary Saturday, September 25, 1999, at 700 Magazine Street. The celebration will feature music from the Jazz Ambassadors, a special cooking demonstration from Peristyle’s nationally recognized chef Anne Kearney and a gigantic birthday cake for all to enjoy.

The ECOnomics Institute has spawned model programs, including a pasta project, to encourage entrepreneurship in housing developments and economic self-sufficiency projects among other disadvantaged populations. It has attracted hundred of thousands of dollars in grants from foundations for its economic sustainability projects bringing farmers together with new markets, and is a model for similar farmers’ markets nationwide. It established the Market Fax, to inform restaurateurs about what’s fresh at the Market and develop the direct connections between chefs and food producers.

The latest initiative is the Crescent City eMarket, which sends automatic e-mail on Thursdays to chefs, market goers, and others on the list about what’s at the Market that weekend, including recipes for use. This initiative marks an important step in linking the traditionally low-tech sector of small food producers with the high tech opportunities of the new century.

As the twentieth century comes to a close, the traditionally low tech, human scale farmers markets are getting a second look by advocates for regionalism, urban planners, and downtown merchants hungry for pedestrian traffic. The very farmers markets that give agriculture a human face, also give downtown areas a face lift.