Local coalition launches new produce market in St. Joseph

(08/08/23) ST. JOSEPH, La. — Joy Sims has been dreaming of booming produce markets in Tensas Parish since she started working as a Healthy Communities agent for the LSU AgCenter four years ago. That dream is finally taking shape thanks to the Tensas Healthy Communities Coalition.

The new Tensas Produce Market launched July 13 at the amphitheater in St. Joseph, Louisiana, and is open every Thursday starting at 3 p.m.

While residents will benefit from improved access to local produce, the new market will also benefit local growers, according to Robin Richard, local farmer and Tensas Parish Healthy Communities Coalition president.

“We wanted to be able to provide a venue for people that are growing, either as a farmer full time or just a backyard operation, where they have a place that they can sell besides just one day a week at the farmers market,” said Richard, co-owner of La Bonne Vie Farm. “Maybe we get some more people doing a little farming, even just backyard.”

The new produce market accepts SNAP, WIC and senior vouchers. Richard said it’s good for everyone if shoppers are able to spend their benefits with local farmers.

“If we didn’t accept them here, then they would have to just take their cards and go to the regular grocery store and that kind of defeats the whole purpose of what we’re trying to do here, which is to make sure that everyone in the parish has the ability to spend the resources they have available to them on locally grown products,” Richard said.

The road leading to the market’s launch wasn’t always smooth. According to Sims, coalition members’ initial proposal for the market was rejected because they didn’t have a sustainability plan. But that didn’t stop them. After the coalition received funding for a market manager from Humana Healthy Horizons, they resubmitted a proposal with a solid sustainability plan.

“This was actually kind of two projects in one because not only were we able to kick off the produce market and make healthy and nutritious food more accessible to people that live and work in Tensas Parish, but we’re also in the process of turning our coalition into a nonprofit organization,” Sims said.

The coalition started as part of the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities initiative, which helps Louisiana towns become healthier places to live, work, learn and play. The AgCenter’s initiative in Tensas Parish is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s High Obesity Program, which addresses nutrition and physical activity environments in parishes with an adult obesity rate at or above 40%.

Despite the twists and turns, Sims is proud of the outcomes. Now, Tensas Parish has two new fixtures in the community: a health-focused nonprofit and a produce market.

For more information about the produce market or the Tensas Healthy Communities Coalition, contact Sims at jsims@agcenter.lsu.edu or 318-766-3769 or Richard at robin.c.richard@gmail.com or 214-687-8149.

A group photo of people standing and sitting under a tent.

Members of the Tensas Healthy Communities Coalition at the new Tensas Produce Market in St. Joseph, Louisiana. From left are, top row, Mollie Cruse, Eryn Arrington, Jainee Frazier and Joy Sims. Bottom row, Heather Richard and Robin Richard. Photo by Catherine Coalson/LSU AgCenter

A woman and a child standing near a tent holding bags of fresh produce.

Two customers pose with their purchases at opening day of the Tensas Produce Market on July 13. Photo by Catherine Coalson/LSU AgCenter

8/8/2023 1:37:59 PM
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