Later this year, the Red Stick Farmers Market will mark its 25th anniversary, and there’s no question it has helped dozens of farmers and food producers build thriving businesses.
The market was part of a fleet of projects introduced in Baton Rouge in the mid-‘90s to help bring energy back to downtown, and while neither the city nor state keeps formal data on the economic impact of farmers markets, the Red Stick Farmers Market’s sway has been significant, says Darlene Adams Rowland, executive director of market organizer BREADA.
Rowland says the market has been an incubator of sorts, helping to stabilize farmers and producers who need direct access to customers.
Cutrer’s Meat Market and Slaughterhouse, for example, saw sales go up 75% after joining the market about 10 years ago. The market also allowed Erin Tassin, founder of artisan goat milk soap company Farm Life Soap, to quit her full-time job and focus on her business.
Farmer Judia Dugas is also among those who found success at the market and was able to turn what had been a Clinton subsistence farm into a thriving niche business focusing on edible hibiscus, which Dugas sells in dried form and in jams and brewed iced tea.
It has also helped some vendors like Iverstine Family Farms to establish brick-and-mortar locations. The heritage pork producer’s sales at the Saturday farmers market enabled it to open a whole animal meal market in Baton Rouge in 2016. Other market vendors like Mushroom Maggie’s Farm and Fullness Organic Farms have been discovered by restaurants whose chefs have shopped at the market. Some farmers and producers balance market sales with online sales.