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May 23, 2006

Crop circles: Area farmers’ markets help sustain local communities

BY PENNY PEAVLERVisit many of Louisville’s farmers’ markets during the summer months and you’ll likely find homegrown fruits and vegetables and rows of freshly baked bread alongside handmade soaps, bouquets of summer blooms and even quilts. Often people fill these markets to select fresh produce from the growers’ harvest, which vendors display in boxes, baskets and bowls. Other vendors offer recipes and samples of produce and baked goods. Sometimes local musicians play. Many of these markets carry a charm that a supermarket can rarely match, and shopping there can be an adventure.Louisville is fortunate to have dozens of farmers’ markets, but two in particular stand out for their special missions: the Family Farm Project and the new Ninth Street Farmers’ Market. This summer, the Family Farm Project, which is part of a larger movement known as Community Supported Agriculture, is delivering fresh, locally grown produce for its fifth season. At this market, customers pay a $450 seasonal fee, essentially a share in the farm for a growing season, and each week receive a selection of the harvest. (The fee helps pay for the farm’s up-front costs such as seeds and labor.) Throughout the growing season, the project offers customers more than 30 different fruits and vegetables, including red, yellow and green tomatoes, sweet corn, broccoli, green beans, apples and pumpkins.Project farmer Les Snyder describes the CSA concept as a way for the farmer to get closer to the people who eat the food because the customer gets the produce straight from the farmer. He also says the deal is a good value because for $16 each week a customer gets the quantitative equivalent of $30 worth of produce bought in a grocery store. Moreover, the produce is fresher because no middleman is involved in bringing it to the customer. Snyder also says the soil improves the quality of the project’s produce. He and his partners, who operate three farms in Oldham County, fertilize their soil with organic matter and never use chemicals or other additives. They also maintain the healthy soil by fortifying it with compost, earthworms, manure and cover crops (grown while the soil is resting, such as fast-growing rye). This approach helps make better-tasting produce.Snyder and his partners began the Family Farm Project after all Kentucky farmers were forced to diversify operations when the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between tobacco manufacturers and the states took effect. While the project currently has 100 member customers, Snyder believes the project could supply up to 200 families with this year’s projected yields.The Ninth Street Farmers’ Market is a newcomer to scene and a project of the nonprofit Russell Neighborhood Development Authority Inc. Its aim is to create an affordable marketplace with independent, regionally owned growers to help vitalize the Russell neighborhood, which lacks retail businesses, including a grocery store. Joe McNealy, a neighborhood resident and the project’s market director, says it’s also an opportunity to educate children from the neighborhood.“Kids in my neighborhood think corn is from a can and french-fried potatoes appear like magic in a frozen food aisle,” McNealy says. The project aspires not only to bring nutritional food to the neighborhood but also be a source of neighborhood pride. It will have merchants selling arts and crafts and will feature local music. (Students of University of Louisville’s jazz program will perform each Saturday at the market.)Metro Councilman David Tandy (D-4th District), who represents the neighborhood, supports the project. “Initiatives like market engages residents and encourages them to come together and take an active part in helping to shape the direction of our community,” he says.McNealy agrees and says he envisions a market as a place where friends can hang out, play chess, learn about regional foods and meet local growers. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com  

Les

By Grower
Did Les say he wasn't using chemicals on his produce?