I’m really looking forward to celebrating National Farmers Market Week. Farmers markets play a key role in developing food systems that help local grow economies. They bring people together, create bridges between rural and urban communities and increase access to locally-grown fruits and vegetables, providing healthier options for consumers across the country.
When Hurricane Katrina struck over a decade ago, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward notoriously faced some of the worst devastation in our nations’ history. The floodwaters have long since subsided, but residents in this community are still struggling to rebuild the lives they knew before the storm.
For many, a trip to the grocery store is a mundane errand, but for Louisianans in the Lower Ninth Ward, it hasn’t been easy for a long time. With the nearest full-service supermarket nearly four miles away in St. Bernard’s Parish, accessing fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables in the community has been nearly impossible.
Rashida Ferdinand, executive director of the Sankofa Community Development Corporation and resident of the Lower Ninth Ward, was determined to find a solution. In 2008, Ferdinand launched Sankofa’s monthly marketplace, a local hub for artists, producers, creators and innovators, to focus on holistic wellness in the community—starting with nutritious food options for preventive health. Since its launch, Sankofa has expanded exponentially and today operates a weekly farmers market, community garden, mini-farm, and youth enrichment programs that have created new opportunities for urban revitalization, education, holistic healthcare, and economic development.
USDA has worked closely with Sankofa to bring new energy to the Lower Ninth Ward, providing funding and technical assistance through the Agricultural Marketing Service, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Natural Resources Conservation Service to help launch and sustain the Sankofa Farmers Market.
Over the past few years, it’s been exciting to see the results of Sankofas’ work. Today, residents of the Lower Ninth Ward can buy fresh fruits and vegetables without having to go far, sparking new interest in locally-grown products. USDA is proud to call Sankofa a partner and I look forward to their continued leadership in strengthening New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.