PPS will contribute $100,000 towards rebuilding
markets as a means of invigorating economic activity in the Gulf Coast region
of Louisiana and Mississippi. The funding, committed as part of a $900,000 re-granting
program for public markets recently awarded to PPS from the Ford Foundation,
will go to the Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM) and its governing group,
marketumbrella.org. The Ford Foundation has also committed an additional $150,000
in funding from its Katrina relief efforts, for a total commitment of $250,000.

Hurricane Katrina has largely devastated all aspects of some 15 markets on
the Gulf Coast: commercial fishers, farmers, family enterprises (farmers, fishers,
bakers, and more), market staff, and many market sites. “These markets
provided a link between farmers and consumers,” said Steve Davies, Senior
Vice President and Director of the Public Markets Program at Project for Public
Spaces, “and many were also the site of social services for low-income
communities through the United States Department of Agriculture Farmers’
Market Nutrition Program and electronic benefit program.”

The funds will be used to help resume operations of public markets in the
region, in ways especially designed to meet post-Katrina needs, according to
Richard McCarthy, executive director of marketumbrella.org and a founder of
the Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, CCFM had four open-air locations each week, serving
over 3,000 shoppers and nearly 100 vendors. Shoppers came from all over the
New Orleans metropolitan area, and vendors from three states – Louisiana,
Alabama and Mississippi. Annual sales of the Saturday market alone are $1.2
million; projected gross annual economic impact of the four markets was more
than $11 million.

“We also provided mentoring to dozens of markets throughout the region,
and had piloted the first electronic benefit transfer (food stamps) program
for open-air markets in the Deep South,” McCarthy said.

In the post-Katrina world, “the ability of people to get the goods and
services they need for re-building is imperative,” Davies said. “The
low start-up cost of a market provides the place for that transaction to happen,
and enables the rapid construction of economic infrastructure lost to the disaster.
Families and businesses not only have a place to purchase and sell goods they
need to get back on their feet but communities will have a place to host critical
services that have been displaced by the storm.”

Among marketumbrella.org’s plans, are:

  • Relaunching regional markets. The Tuesday Crescent City Farmers Market
    opened just before Thanksgiving in uptown New Orleans with an estimated 2,000
    shoppers. Festivus, a “Holiday Market for the Rest of Us” drew
    crowds to the Warehouse/Arts District in early December. “Working with
    French Market, Ocean Springs, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, and
    other regional markets is central to our mission of initiating and promoting
    the ecology of the local economy,” McCarthy said.
  • Expanding on CCFM’s wireless/wooden currency network to keep local
    money in the local market and help create security in the regional food system.
  • Cultivating alternative philanthropy and mutual aid (the “circles
    of giving” which CCFM has termed “crop circles”) for vendors
    and shoppers at markets to invest into funds with a direct impact on vendors
    and host communities.
  • Providing workshops and other training/model programs to the community of
    more than 4,000 farmers markets nationwide.
  • Seeking out new partners for public markets: schools, for instance, can
    serve as appropriate host institutions as local infrastructure is redesigned
    or “useful markets” can include small business owners who provide
    services essential in individual rebuilding efforts as well as serve as a
    central point of contact for social service efforts.

Both Project for Public Spaces and marketumbrella.org are committed to the
principle that our markets are points of rebirth in the face of devastation.

“The silver lining of this disaster can be that, with the right team
of market partners, we can demonstrate the intrinsic value of markets to communities,”
said Ford Foundation Program Officer Miguel Garcia.

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Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a non-profit organization founded in 1975
dedicated to creating and sustaining places that build community. We provide
technical assistance, education, and research through programs in parks, plazas
and central squares; buildings and civic architecture; transportation; and public
markets. PPS has worked with communities in 48 states and in 20 countries around
the world. With support from the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation,
PPS has initiated a $2.5 million regranting program to enhance public markets
as focal points for community development.

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization.
For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and
institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values,
reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing
human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices
in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Russia.

Marketumbrella.org’s mission is to initiate and promote the ecology
of local economies: markets, meeting place, mentor and model. A department of
Loyola University New Orleans at its Twomey Center for Peace through Justice,
it embodies the Jesuit institution’s core social justice values and its
role as a center for innovation. Among its other roles, it sponsors the Crescent
City Farmers Market, which celebrated its 10th birthday this fall.