A Slice of St. Tammany: New Abita farmers’ market flourishes

By Karen Baker

Special to The Advocate

I proclaimed “anti-clutter day” in my house recently, which included cleaning out two boxes that sat in my hallway for eight months, ever since I packed up a desk where I worked for a dozen years or so.

It was like opening up a time capsule. I threw away lots of things — including the “Fitness through Belly Dancing” VHS tape — and kept a few, including a mermaid drawing from my daughter that was dated August 1999.

Something else I kept in my anti-clutter campaign was a booklet titled “Fight World Hunger Starting at Your Kitchen Table.” Produced by Oxfam America, it gives simple suggestions for tweaking our food consumption in light of pervasive hunger in the world.

One of the suggestions, in addition to eating less meat and shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables, is to buy from local farmers. In St. Tammany Parish, we have plenty of opportunities to buy locally grown food. There are farmers markets in Covington, Folsom, Mandeville and Slidell. Now you can add Abita Springs to that list.

“We started in April,” said Michael Norman, who organizes the market for the town of Abita Springs. “It’s going great. We are adding two or three new vendors each weekend. People are coming out and enjoying a lovely Sunday.”

The market is open each Sunday at the Abita trailhead from noon to 4 p.m.

“My rule for vendors is that whatever you’re selling, you have to create yourself,” Norman said.

The market includes produce, plants, fresh eggs, chickens, rabbits, prepared foods, baked goods, jams, jellies and boiled peanuts, to name a few.

There are also handcrafted items, such as jewelry and woodworking. “Everything is produced by the vendors,” Norman said.

As an added treat, there is the convergence of food and music.

“For many years, a group of acoustic musicians has been meeting at the trailhead on Sunday afternoons for a music jam,” Norman said. So, although the music is not officially aligned with the market, you can’t help but enjoy it while shopping.

Abita Springs is a quaint little town that offers plenty for visitors, Norman said, and the market is just one more attraction. “The mayor (Greg Lemons) was interested in giving people another reason to come into the town of Abita. They can use the park and patronize the local businesses. … It’s another wholesome activity that takes place in Abita Springs.”

Finding vendors, he added, was no problem. “The rural area around us includes a lot of people who do their own gardening or raise livestock. This gives them a venue to sell.”

In addition to the food, as Norman mentioned, there are also crafts available. “Abita has always been an artisan community with painters, sculptors, what have you,” he said. “This enhances that genre.”

Here are the other local markets:

Elder abuse awareness

“Don’t Get Wired,” “Scams, Schemes and Scoundrels” and “You Have Permission To Be Rude” will be featured at a free seminar for senior adults on Tuesday at the Greater Covington Center, 317 N. Jefferson in Covington.

“The SALT Council wanted to find a way to offer some interesting new information designed to help seniors protect their assets from those who would cheat them, steal from them and find innovative ways to make victims of the remaining members of ‘The Greatest Generation’ as part of our World Elder Abuse Awareness Day,” SALT Council Chairman Ralph Oneal said.

The event will start with a free breakfast in the Bogue Falaya Hall, followed by the topical presentations starting at 9 a.m. in the Fuhrmann Auditorium.

“We can handle up to 250 people at this event, and we hope to see that many,” Oneal said. “If folks want to come for part or the entire program, we will be happy to see them,” he added. “The only thing we ask is they pre-register so we know how much food to have on hand.”

Registration is available online at www.stsalt.org. Registration materials can also be requested by email to weaad@stsalt.org or by calling (985) 809-5455.

Mandeville gets tree grant

Mandeville is serious about keeping its reputation as a tree-friendly city. Just recently, Keep Mandeville Beautiful was awarded a $5,000 UPS/Keep America Beautiful Community tree planting grant. The money will be used to purchase 50 trees that will be planted in Mandeville.

Keep Mandeville Beautiful will recruit volunteers to help plant the trees so the entire grant can go to purchasing trees. The trees will be planted in December and January. To volunteer, email kmb@cityofmandeville.com.

Over the last several years, Mother Nature has taken a toll on the city’s trees. In 2005, KMB estimates that the city lost 12 percent of its trees on public property including parks and rights of way. The city also estimated a loss of 35 percent of all trees on non-public and private land.

For more information on how you can help plant trees for Keep Mandeville Beautiful email kmb@cityofmandeville.com.

Karen Baker writes about happenings in St. Tammany Parish. She can be reached at sliceoftammany@gmail.com.