Artists Excluded From Shreveport Farmers' Market
SHREVEPORT, LA (AP) — With the Shreveport Farmers' Market now re-open, one group of vendors is noticeably missing — local artists.
With 60 farmers, ranchers, beekeepers and gardeners, this year's Shreveport Farmers' Market is expected to be the biggest to date. The market has accepted 14 new farmers in addition to the regular farmers, and they needed more space.
"It's an exciting time for farmers and, of course, that is the main mission of what we do is to support local farming. It's so many, in fact, that some of them are gonna have to unload in the middle of the east pavilion, and what that has done is pushed vendors that are normally in those places into other places," said market manager Noma Fowler-Sandlin.
It was local artists that got the boot. Although they won't be in Festival Plaza, arrangements are being made to absorb the artists that were kicked out the farmers' market at another downtown Shreveport location.
Artists have taken advantage of "accidental customers" — those who stumbled upon their crafts and creations while combing the market for produce — since its first day.
"The beauty of the farmers' market was — the reason why we made money — people that didn't know us that were there to buy fruits and vegetables were pleasantly surprised and shopped with us," said artist Karen Labeau.
The market has housed about 20 local artists yearly throughout the market. One year they were housed along the train depot. They were moved to the now-closed Barnwell Center and, in more recent years, they were housed in "Artist Alley" under the bridge.
The artists knew another change was coming for them with the farmers' market but they thought it wouldn't be until next year.
"I'm disappointed that they didn't announce this at our meeting in March instead of letting us think it was business as usual," said Marci Gatlin Hicks, owner of Jobean Cards and More. "They are kicking out all of the artists who have supported and been a part of the farmers market for years to make room for 10 to 15 or so more farmers."
Kate Hesson, owner of Zombee Candle, Coven Co. and the soon-to-open Sleepy Hollow Books and Gifts, first shared the news on Facebook.
"No Zombees at the farmers' market this summer after all y'all. I've been a vendor before. Not sure what's up," she posted on May 7, 2015.
"I understand if it is supposed to be produce only, but that is not the case," Hesson said. "I'd like to think local markets like The Revel and Shreveport Farmers' Market would want to showcase the city's own small businesses, but I'm seeing less and less of that."
And it's not just a matter of principle. There are dollars at stake.
"I have a large customer base that I've developed there having been a part of the market the past few years. These are customers who pretty much exclusively shop with me at the market. I'm not in any local retail shops so the Farmers' Market was a great venue for customers to find me on a regular basis," Hicks said.
Fowler-Sandlin understands the hurt feelings and said the market's logistics usually change last minute.
"It wasn't like we had an evil scheme," she said. "We never know how much of what we are going to have from year to year because we have to do it right at the last minute since it's farmer-driven, and that is related to the growing season. Our number of farmers are up considerably."
Fowler-Sandlin said farmers make up 43 percent of the market this year. The remaining 57 percent this year will be comprised of bakers, canners, makers of creative food products and the market café.
To generate more traffic in the Red River District and to find a home for the displaced artists, the City of Shreveport's SPAR and the Shreveport Farmers' Market have partnered together to create the Shreveport Artists' Market. The artist's market will run every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Marissa Carbine, event coordinator for the Red River District, is excited to provide a space for the artists and another option for the public to get out and explore downtown Shreveport.
"The artist community in Shreveport has grown so much that it only makes sense for these talented individuals to have their very own market. The tenants of the Red River District had been expressing a desire to host some sort of weekly arts and craft festival, so when I reached out to the farmers market for some ideas, the timing was perfect," she said.
The Red River District has received help from the Shreveport Farmers Market, and both are committed to making the artists' market a success.
Market-goers can ride the Market2Market shuttle that will pick up shoppers at the entrance at the east gate of the farmers' market to transport them to the Red River District.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for the artists. It's gonna be a great double whammy" said Fowler-Sandlin.
– by AP/ Reporter Jada Durden with The Shreveport Times