To Market, To Market
● By Robert Frey
Text and photos by Stacy Lee
There was a time when “To market, to market” indicated traveling to a rural market to purchase agricultural produce and meat. Today, when someone in Acadiana says “To market,” you would not be far off in thinking the person is going to make a trip to one of the many farmers markets in the area – most notably, the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm, Lafayette’s premier destination for farm-to-table fare.
The Market Team
Perhaps no one is doing more for the local food movement in Acadiana than Market Manager Molly Richard. Under her leadership, the Horse Farm has become the largest and busiest market in Acadiana.
“I see the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm as a hub of cultural activity where the best of our region’s food, art and music are celebrated in the oak-shaded heart of the city. It’s a prime arena for locals and visitors to directly support Louisiana farmers, artists and food producers in an atmosphere of community enrichment,” says Richard.
By offering weekly workshops and seasonal farm tours, the Market team strives to educate the community on the many benefits of eating foods grown or produced here in Acadiana. Aspects of our modern food system create unnecessary divisions between the farm and the table, which often lead to poor food choices and inhibit a healthy lifestyle.
In an effort to help reconnect people to their food sources, Richard and her team began leading tours to Market vendors’ farms and ranches last spring. Seeing a Market vendor in their own element and learning how and why they do what they do is absolutely inspiring for tour participants, young and old. Vendors are always eager to educate customers on their sustainable farming practicing whether they are guiding on a farm tour or chatting at the Market. The next series of farm tours, featuring pumpkin patches, goat milk, and grass-fed livestock, is set to take place in the fall.
Richard says, “The team of Market vendors has truly become my second family. We all work hard together to provide a community Market for Acadiana to enjoy. Each and every vendor is passionate about what they do, and that passion is contagious.”
At The Horse Farm
To ensure that the Market connects people to high-quality, Louisiana-made goods, Richard visits each food vendors’ facility before they join the Market. She verifies they are actually producing what they have applied to sell and are upholding high health and safety standards.
Each farm projects a unique presence and each has an individual farming philosophy. Read further to obtain additional insight and a behind the scenes look at the “boutique farmers” who are leading the farm-to-table movement in Acadiana.
Gotreaux Family Farms
Dawn and Brian Gotreaux
Brian and Dawn Gotreaux and their 10 children use their 28 acres in Scott to sustainably create “nutrient-dense” food to feed the community they love.
The Gotreauxs use a unique ecosystem that Brian calls his “Greenwater Recirculating Aquaculture System” to grow healthy farm-raised tilapia indoors, in above ground tanks of clean well water. The tilapias thrive and grow, feeding on phytoplankton, using a healthy and environmentally friendly filtration system.
Apiculture (beekeeping) supports pollination of the Gotreaux’s wide variety of crops while providing local, delicious and beneficial honey.
Vermiculture is the growing of earthworms to produce castings, which promote healthy compost. Farm “waste” is also recycled as compost to ensure that nothing is truly wasted. The soil is also re-mineralized to enhance nutrient uptake by plants. The only thing that leaves the farm is pure nutritious food.
Brian says aquaculture, apiculture and vermiculture combine as a system of agriculture that supports and feeds the Acadiana culture they love. The Gotreauxs sell 165 varieties of fruits and vegetables as well as eggs, beef, dairy, sheep, goats, tilapia, turkeys and chickens on Tuesday afternoons from 2-6 p.m. at their farm in Scott and at Lafayette’s Hub City Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. They love building relationships with their market customers.
Brian’s love of farmer’s markets began while serving overseas in the Air Force. While visiting farmer’s markets around the globe, the Gotreauxs learned the importance of serving the community by producing healthy local food. They refuse offers to sell their food nationwide to ensure their sustainable lifestyle and work ethic, while engaging in the important task of feeding Acadiana. The Gotreaux’s next plan is to create an onsite farm store, café and commercial community kitchen.
Mark and Mary’s City Farm
Mark and Mary Hernandez
Mark and Mary’s City Farm is a 7.5-acre sustainable farm situated in upper Lafayette.
Mark Hernandez started farming the land in 2001, long before the current and growing demand for fresh and local produce. For Mark, farming is connecting to the land, experimenting with different techniques to keep up with ever-changing weather patterns, and most importantly, expressing his life-long passion for nurturing plants from their inception and caring for them through their final fruiting stage.
Mark and Mary’s philosophy of simplicity on the farm translates to providing wide-open spaces for their children, Madeleine, 10, and Owen, 7, and employing old-fashioned sustainable growing practices, including cover-cropping and composting, without the use of harmful pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
Determinedly, Mark and Mary affirm, “We will revel in the highs, and hang on to our shovels with both hands during the lows. We believe our cultural practices are best for the land, for families, for our health and for our local economy. We will grow tasty food and we will leave the land better than we found it.”
Mark and Mary’s produce has been available at every Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm since it began.
“We’ve always sold our produce at farmers’ markets because they complete the circle of simplicity,” they proclaim. “We love serving our local community. Getting to know the folks we feed, fuels our heartfelt passion for growing.”
Helping Hands Farm
David Klier and Stephanie Elwood
David and Stephanie grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and cut flowers on 13 acres in Plaisance the clean way – without chemical pesticides and herbicides. Helping Hands Farm has been in production since 2010. David Klier says his passion for clean farming drives him, despite its inherent challenges.
“We are truly blessed to be able to provide for our family and friends, as well as the people of Acadiana. We enjoy talking with our customers every Saturday at the Horse Farm. They let us know that our clean farming principles and practices are deeply appreciated. We also thank Acadiana for providing the opportunity to raise our 1-year-old, Leonessa, on our clean family farm.”
Up To Grow Good
Paul Lyles and Brady Brouillette
Up to Grow Good is a small family-owned and operated farm in Cottonport, La. Explaining their farming system, Paul says, “We grow all of our veggies, fruits and herbs organically. This means there are no chemical pesticides or genetically modified food. We take pride in growing interesting and tasty heirloom varieties and use sustainable growing practices every single day.”
Brady continues, “Selling our produce at farmers’ markets in Acadiana is a true pleasure for us. Good food is the required fuel, on which we must all run daily. Growing and providing high quality food is what we do year-round.”
Gonsoulin Land and Cattle
Drs. Shannon and Toni Gonsoulin
Veterinarians Shannon and Toni Gonsoulin are a husband and wife ranching team. The Gonsoulin family has been raising cattle in Acadiana since 1770, when their F2 brand was first registered in St. Martinville. They have been producing high-quality, grass-fed beef without antibiotics or growth hormones since 2006. Their ranch in Loreauville now has a sister ranch in Sunset, through a partnership with Stewart Gardner, a USDA Range Specialist. Together, they focus on producing year-round premium grass for their premium beef. They also use low-stress, hands-on ranching techniques to enhance the health of their herds.
“We produce beef as Mother Nature has intended, and conserve our natural resources in the process,” Dr. Shannon Gonsoulin says. Gonsoulin Ranch practices have earned numerous awards for outstanding accomplishments in the conservation of soil, water and related natural resources. Although they take great pride in these accolades, their greatest source of joy is in providing the highest quality meats for their family, neighbors and friends in Acadiana. “We stay as local as possible to do our part in keeping the local economy strong.”
Gonsoulin products are sold at the Horse Farm and Delcambre Seafood and Farmers Market, as well as at their own GLC Market 2-6 p.m. on Wednesdays at 211 N. Main St. in Loreauville.
Homegrown Organics of Lafayette
Jeanne Plaisance considers herself a “micro farmer florist.” She started Homegrown Organics of Lafayette in 2011, growing specialty vegetable crops, micro greens and flowers. Specialty cut flowers are now her sole focus. She grows more than 40 varieties of cut flowers on three different properties, using sustainable farming practices including composting, minimal tilling, all natural fertilizers, conservative watering practices and use of heirloom varieties.
“I’m always careful not to take more from the land that I put into it,” Plaisance says.
By providing locally grown flowers, Plaisance not only strengthens the local economy, but also reduces the environmental impact of transcontinental shipping.
“I love meeting new people at Farmers Markets in Lafayette and Lake Charles. This is where we can share information, network and build community. I love making someone smile when handing them a bouquet, the product of my hard work, knowing that they will love it, too.”
Market Basket Youngsville
Charles M. Thompson III
A former chef, Charles M. Thompson III focuses on sustainable, heirloom, organic farming. He sells clean, healthy oils and fats for cooking, pastured meats and produce at the Hub City Market and on site, where clients are invited to tour the farm by appointment.
Inglewood Farm is a family farm located in central Louisiana, which sells at the Horse Farm. Their pecan orchards and vegetable production are certified organic. They also raise Berkshire pork, red Angus cattle and poultry on pasture.