The Vietnamese Farmers’ Market. Photo by Daniel Ngyen.
The Vietnamese Farmers’ Market is located at 14401 Alcee Fortier Boulevard in New Orleans East. Several Vietnamese vendors set up their stands outside around 5 a.m., selling produce and accepting cash only. Vendors sell fresh okra, lemon grass, snow peas, bananas, papaya, and figs. Asian pop music plays in the background, and several animals wander around the outskirts of the market. The rustic atmosphere of the Vietnamese Farmers’ market sets it apart from its urban setting.
The Vietnamese Farmers’ Market, which opens every Saturday from 6 a.m.-9 a.m., began when the Catholic Church brought Vietnamese refugees to the area in the 1970’s. Behind their housing estate, they found 40 acres of wasteland where immigrants planted seeds that they brought from Vietnam. Since then, Vietnamese Farmers’ Market opened for business in the 1990’s, when a landlord purchased the land and rents it to growers for $1 a year (Roahen, Sara. “Vietnamese Farmers’ Market Community Gardening Project.” Southern Foodways Alliance. Accessed April 27, 2014).
Since then, the Ly Family, who own a supermarket near the market, has overseen the Vietnamese Farmers’ market. To honor their hard work, the Southern Floodways Alliance presented the family with the Guardian of the Tradition award. The Ly family helped repair the market after Hurricane Katrina, as they re-organized and improved the market (Roahen, Sara. “Vietnamese Farmers’ Market Community Gardening Project.” Southern Foodways Alliance. https://www.southernfoodways.org/interview/vietnamese-farmers-market-community-gardening-project/).
Produce being grown for the Vietnamese Farmers’ Market. Photo by Daniel Ngyen.
Daniel Ngyen works frequently with the Vietnamese Farmers’ Market. He runs the farmers co-op and works with the vendors at the Vietnamese Farmers’ Market. He is also a part of the veggie-farmer corporative, which is organized in New Orleans East. The goal of the Mission is to create jobs for the people in the East. They sell produce to 15 restaurants in the city of New Orleans and they also have two market vendors and online distributors. They began organizing with farmers who were selling to the markets in 2010. Daniel explains that it is important for the Vietnamese Farmers’ Market to open early in the morning so that the fisherman can pick up their produce, which is a tradition carried from Vietnam. Not only is the market organic, but also it has helped the community have easier access to fresh produce. It is very unique, because it is the only market in New Orleans that sells live animals for slaughter (Daniel Ngyen, Interview by Stephanie Rosenfeld and Katherine Levy, New Orleans, LA. April 22, 2014).
Another important aspect of the market is the way in which the vendors lay out their produce on the ground, which is another tradition from Vietnam. One of Daniel’s favorite things about the market is that it opens at 5:00 a.m. “I find it nice to be able to start my day at sun rise, and it’s a good jump start,” he says (Daniel Ngyen, Interview by Stephanie Rosenfeld and Katherine Levy, New Orleans, LA. April 22, 2014).