Residents of Baton Rouge are well aware of the regularly-available, locally-grown produce made available on a weekly basis at the Red Stick Farmers Market in downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday mornings, but according to a profile by The Advocate, new leadership will soon bridge the gap between the farmers offering their produce and wares and the customers who purchase them.
Nearly each and every Saturday morning, the Red Stick Farmers Market conducts its regular business officially at 8 a.m, though the preparation of the over fifty farmers and staff members of the Big River Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance, the organization known for operating the market, have been hard at work.
Starting in 2021, a new chapter begins with the appointment of Darlene Adams Rowland taking over as the alliance’s new executive director, replacing Copper Alvarez, who is retiring after 19 years in the position. Pardon the pun, but Rowland is no spring chicken in that she has been serving the organization for the past 13 years as the alliance’s development director and marketing consultant.
Complacency isn’t at the forefront of her new posting, as the executive director of the farmers market plans to make the stories of the hardworking local farmers responsible for supplying their produce stands week-to-week more readily known by the public. She told The Advocate, “ I would really love to be able to connect the people more closely with the farmers,” said Rowland, who would like to start a campaign enlisting local bloggers and writers to show “who these farmers are, what they grow and how they got there.”
Rowland made the important distinction that she believes that the members of the public who regularly visit the Farmer’s Market, which conducts its business on Saturdays at the downtown location as well as on Tuesdays at the East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, because without community support, there would fundamentally be no farmer’s market to visit.
The Big River Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance is a nonprofit organization, thus not gaining any support from the government or other private sector organizations. This classification makes community efforts, notoriety, and support that much more essential to its survival, for without a farmer’s market, not only would customers be without locally-grown produce, but the demise of local growers, depending on the trusted venue for commerce, would be imminent.
Before becoming an active member of the Alliance, when Darlene Adams Rowland was a community member shopping at the market, she hadn’t considered the stakes of community involvement in the survival of the market itself, remarking that while attending and enjoying the availability and access of the market, she didn’t realize how much preparation and work went into its success.
In addition to three weekly farmers markets, the alliance occasionally funds a mobile farmer’s market, serving neighborhoods with limited access to fresh food and operates the Main Street Market, an indoor collection of locally owned restaurants and specialty shops as well as teaches children about healthy lifestyles through Sprouts, it’s kids club. 2021 is set to be a banner year for the alliance not only in its new leadership, but in light of the COVID impact and the realization of just how vital the farmers market ecosystem is to the local food system at large.
Rowlands said of the future of the alliance, “I think the more diverse products we have at the market the better because it appeals to a larger group of people. And so I’d really like to find ways to connect with the AG centers at both LSU and Southern and find ways we can collaborate to really actually make an impact in helping people who want to farm, find the land and provide the mentoring. We’ve already talked to farmers about that kind of mentoring,” she said. “That’s something I hope we can put together.”
For more Louisiana related articles, click here.