Cajun Farmers Market asset to Houma’s economy; city looking to expand to downtown

Tuesday, Mar. 30
March 29, 2010
Shelby Pitre
March 31, 2010
Tuesday, Mar. 30
March 29, 2010
Shelby Pitre
March 31, 2010

Gerald Porche’s pickup truck and produce table stood alone on a chilly Thursday morning at the Cajun Farmers Market of Houma.

But as temperatures begin to warm up and spring inches ever closer, the Bayou Blue farmer won’t be alone for long as many other local farmers will look to sell their produce out of the back of their vehicles.

“They have about five or six vendors that start coming pretty regular,” said Porche. “When the tomatoes come out [in May], they’ll have somebody six days a week.”

Located on the intersection of Tunnel Boulevard and Naquin Street, Porche said the Cajun Farmers Market will begin serving spring vegetables in early May.

Porche said his spring menu will include potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn, snap beans and okra, and he will begin planting the seeds soon.

“I’m sort of retired, but it keeps you going. Keeps you in good shape, and the money is handy, too,” said Porche.

Ever since retiring from the trawling industry 18 years ago, Porche has labored over his garden to sell the freshest vegetables to citizens of the Tri-parish area.

“That was all picked yesterday evening,” said Porche as he pointed at his mustard and turnips, the remainder of his winter crop for sale. “We generally pick our stuff the day before we come over here, or the same day.”

And local farmers like Porche sell these vegetables directly to the public for about the same price as chain stores do, which puts more money in farmers’ pockets than if they had to sell their vegetables to stores.

LSU Agriculture Center Terrebonne Agent Barton Joffrion said small farmers markets are important to the local economy.

“It is providing a service to the community, and an economic factor to these producers,” said Joffrion. “The benefits of a local market are that you do have farmers that you know that are local, and they’re trying and succeeding in presenting the most freshest products out to the consumer. People are always looking to buy fresh grown products.”

After the success of the Cajun Farmers Market, Houma is looking to expand with another farmers market downtown.

“Our goal is to open up in May,” said Houma Downtown Development Corporation spokesperson Anne Picou. “It would be on Saturday mornings, and we will be using the Waterlife Museum and the Memorial Park area. With the new Boardwalk, that area is just a nice, inviting area.”

Picou said the HDDC still needs co-sponsorship from the parish, but she is confident that will happen soon with the support of Parish President Michel Claudet.

The idea for a downtown farmers market has been in the works for a couple of months, according to Picou.

“Probably around the end of December, we started entertaining the idea from a conference that we went to,” she said. “The farmers market is kind of the new, little buzz thing for Main Street.”

Picou said there would be a nominal annual participation fee and possibly a $10 fee on the days the farmer participates.

“And basically the money that we would collect would be to help offset the costs for advertising, so it would go indirectly right back to them to get the word out,” she added.

Even though the event will be advertised as a farmers market, Picou welcomes the participation of those with items other than produce as well.

“I had a gentleman who would like to do fresh cracklin, had another lady that had contacted me about honey when its seasonal, so anything along those lines,” she said. “We’re also working with the arts council to entertain artists that would like to display their art and have an opportunity to sell their art.”

Picou added anyone wanting to sell fresh flowers would be welcomed as well.

“What we’re trying to do is get people to realize again that downtown does have some things to offer, and hopefully they’ll come and enjoy the beautiful Boardwalk and what we have to offer to Terrebonne Parish,” she said.

Those interested in reserving a booth or who would simply like more information can contact Picou at (985) 873-6408.

Gerald Porche stands at his pickup truck sorting fresh produce at the Cajun Farmer’s Market of Houma. A new market is in the works for downtown. * Photo by RICHARD FISCHER