Red Stick Farmers Market’s new leader on why shopping local produce is so important now

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since publication to add new information on this weekend’s farmers market.

Every week for nearly a quarter-century, the Red Stick Farmers Market has been a cheery gathering place that connects small farmers and producers with passionate food lovers. The new year brought new leadership to BREADA, the organization that runs the farmers market as well as the Main Street Market downtown and other programs. Veteran BREADA staff member Darlene Adams Rowland replaced the retiring Copper Alvarez as executive director in January.

And right now, as farmers across the region struggle with the repercussions of Monday’s ice storm, Rowland’s leadership at BREADA is needed more than ever. The Thursday, Feb. 18, market this morning was cancelled because so many farmers have lost crops due to the icy conditions and are preparing for hard freezes tonight and Friday night. “Continued freezing temps with more nasty weather on the way today makes it difficult to impossible for farmers to get into the fields. In the meantime, we’re checking in with everyone during this unusual weather event,” the Red Stick Farmers Market wrote in a Facebook post.

But Rowland says the Red Stick Farmers Market will be open on Saturday, Feb. 20. Don’t expect to see every vendor there—many haven’t been able to fully assess the extent of the damage from the winter storm—but many of your favorites will be braving an expected low of 24 degrees to bring you meat, seafood and, yes, even produce.

Some farmers were able to salvage a portion of heartier crops like spinach, kale and Brussels sprouts, and others were able to harvest some of their usual haul before the extended freeze took hold earlier this week. More than likely, the weather event will cause farmers to lose most of the back half of the winter harvest and will delay their planting of spring crops, which should be going in the ground now.

Beloved Louisiana strawberries may be delayed for the moment, but should see a comeback, at least among farmers who plant them in stages. In addition to lost crops, some growers are struggling with the loss of electricity and even water.

Rowland is encouraging market patrons to donate to the Louisiana Small Farm Survival Fund, which was set up in 2005 and provides relief to small farmers after natural disasters.

The past year’s pandemic and extreme weather events have only exacerbated all the work that already goes into setting up the farmers market. “It’s run by a nonprofit with an extremely small staff, and not by the city or the state. You come to the market, and you see this robust exchange of money and goods, but there’s a ton of behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting that experience on, starting at 5:15 a.m,” Rowland says.

Read on for our Q&A with Rowland about continuing BREADA’s mission, in a story that ran in 225‘s February 2021 issue. And click here to keep updated with the Red Stick Farmers Market’s plans for the Saturday market and how you can support local farmers.

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