Mary Ann Van Osdell, Cummins, Denyse B.
News Release Distributed 03/08/10
SHREVEPORT, La. – A panel of small business managers at the LSU AgCenter’s Market Gardening Seminar on March 6 said their customers like to buy locally grown produce and flowers and would welcome more local suppliers.
Michael Brady, chef at Wine Country Bistro in Shreveport, said he builds relationships with his local suppliers, and his customers like knowing the food he serves is “from right around the corner.”
“It’s all about earth to plate,” said Jason Brady, owner of Wine Country Bistro. “Local is the trump card of all trump cards.”
The Bradys have toyed with the idea of offering a locally grown dinner featuring “John’s beets and Gary’s potatoes” and have the local growers tell about their operations.
The seminar was held for commercial growers at all levels, both start-up and experienced, said Denyse Cummins, LSU AgCenter horticulturist.
The panel also included Randy Hamacker, owner of Sunshine Health Foods of Shreveport, and Nona Fowler-Sandlin, manager of Shreveport Farmers’ Market.
Hamacker said he would welcome sales of produce and fresh flowers in booths outside of his Shreveport store.
Fowler-Sandlin said 2009 was the market's biggest year, drawing 37,908 visitors. The number of vendors has also jumped, and they come from Texas and Arkansas as well as Louisiana, one as far as 127 miles.
According to a recent study of the farmers’ market, shoppers came from 42 zip codes, and almost half attend every week. Shoppers spent $25.64 per visit at the market and an average of an additional $60.98 at other area businesses, she said.
Other topics at the seminar included weed management, vegetable varieties, soil improvement and planting for continuous production.
Jimmy Boudreaux, LSU AgCenter commercial vegetable specialist, offered the following suggestions for produce growers to enhance their sales:
– If you’re going to grow eggplant, grow different colors and shapes.
– Artichokes make a beautiful purple flower that you can sell.
– Square or five-sided okra doesn’t sell.
– The secret to growing beets is to keep them moist.
– Cabbage has to weigh 2 to 3 pounds for market, and the leaves need to grow upright, not flat.Mary Ann Van Osdell
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture