by Betsy Davis, Features Editor
More and more people are demanding FRESH, LOCAL AND HOMEGROWN GOODS from the communities they live in, and Louisiana is responding. Farmers markets are on the rise, community gardens are sprouting up and businesses are staying true to their southern roots and all of the natural ingredients it has to offer.
As an area that’s known for its rich food culture, Louisiana is already a cornucopia of good eatsfrom its fresh seafood to its fertile soil where almost anything grows. But, as the daily consumer is becoming more health and environmentally conscious, the demand for locally-produced, direct-to-consumer goods has increased three-fold between 1992 and 2007, and markets listed in USDA National Farmers Market Directory has grown four times the amount over the last two decades to meet their demands according to a 2014 study by the United States Department of Agriculture.
And this rise in local goods is because more consumers are turning into locavores looking for fresh foods, showing a willingness to learn about farming processes to maintain integrity of the goods and producing a growing support for local businesses, farmers and agriculture—all sensible reasons to buy and eat local.
The markets featured here are only a few of the 100-plus that Louisiana has to offer today. Along with the growth of community gardens and businesses with a local edge, it’s obvious that this fresh-food demand is more than just a fad.
“We’ve come to know recently in the last few years that it’s always best to eat food from where you live,” says Randy Cheramie, executive director of the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. “Simply put, the best vegetables are at farmers markets. There’s no two ways about it — it’s cheaper and it’s just all around better for you.”
A world-travelled and renowned chef, Cheramie has had more than a lifetime’s worth of experience with food. From owning and running a restaurant, to coaching in the American Culinary Federation and the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition, gaining the acclaim of one of the top 25 chefs in Louisiana by the American Culinary Federation and now part of the full-time faculty at the culinary institute, Cheramie is well versed in all things good when it comes to what to eat and how to get it.
“If you look on the side of boxes and the ingredients in foods, like breadcrumbs for instance, there’s everything but bread in there!” Cheremaie says. “It’s scary. I made a pledge a long time ago, if I can’t pronounce it, I’m not eating it. [People] need to eat real food.”
And Louisiana really makes it easy to eat real food. Cheramie points out that the region is rich in alluvial soil that can produce almost any crop imaginable, it’s positioned next to a the bountiful Gulf of Mexico where fresh fish of all varieties fill nets to the brim. Even more so, aiding those that bring these goods to our dinner tables is valuable in these times of big industry and fast food franchises.
“We have a real commitment to Louisiana,” Cheramie notes. “A commitment to both the Louisiana fishermen and the Louisiana farmer cause we’re losing both of them. Generations of them are dying out and they need our support.”