WESTWEGO – "This is all about getting people involved in locally grown food," LSU AgCenter vice chancellor Paul Coreil said of the newly opened Westwego Farmers and Fisheries Market.
Designed as a replica of old Sala Avenue in Westwego, the market is the newest place in town to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, arts and crafts as well as prepared foods, according to Cathy Pailet, the market’s coordinator. The market opened in August 2008.
"This is an opportunity for local crafts people, artisans, farmers and home growers to come and have a convenient, local area to sell all of their products," she said.
Pailet said the market is a city project made possible with help and funding from Jefferson Parish and the state of Louisiana.
"This project actually was being planned before Katrina, then after the storm they really got going with construction," she said.
Brent Jeansonne, the LSU AgCenter horticulture agent for Jefferson Parish, said he’s been deeply involved in the project for the past four months.
"We were involved in the organization of vendors, supporters and just the general operation of the programs working with Cathy," Jeansonne said.
The LSU AgCenter will have a permanent booth to provide information at the market, said Steve Mullen, LSU AgCenter region director.
"We have a tremendous Master Gardener association for the Greater New Orleans area, and we will have a booth here at least once a month," Mullen said.
Mullen called the farmers market a great opportunity for the LSU AgCenter to provide timely education.
"For example, we have some hurricane recovery publications here dealing with replanting trees, which is a major issue now," he said.
He said the LSU AgCenter has resources for "helping people to make better decisions about where to plant, so that in the future, these storms won’t have such an impact on damaging homes and buildings as a result of falling branches and trees."
Coreil said the farmers market is a natural fit for the LSU AgCenter.
He said the market is a place for consumers to learn not only about nutrition but also about the LSU AgCenter’s horticulture agents, Master Gardeners and family and consumer science agents, who will be providing information.
Pailet said she could not have pulled it off without the help of people from the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Daniel Alario, Westwego’s mayor, said the idea for the farmers market came as a result of a book he wrote on the history of the area a few years ago. He explained how Westwego became a town after the devastating hurricane of 1892.
"That storm killed about half the people, and all of the houses were destroyed," Alario said. "So they moved to Salaville, and as the population grew, they changed the name to Westwego."
According to Alario, a railroad conductor should get credit for the name change because when the train was ready to leave the station, he would say, "All aboard. West we go." This meant the train was headed to Texas or California.
Pailet said the market will be smaller on Wednesdays than Saturdays, with only about 20 vendors because many of them have regular jobs during the week. But, she said, Saturdays will feature more than 43 vendors – and always with live music.
(This article appeared in the fall 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)