History Of RFM
Never underestimate what a group of people can accomplish.
In the fall of 2007, a small group of women in a book club wondered why Ruston, a small town in north Louisiana that is surrounded by agricultural land, did not have access to local fresh produce via a farmers market. With a why-not attitude and lots of naivetés, they put out flyers around town asking if anyone wanted to help get one started. An email list of interested volunteers and vendors was generated.
In early 2008, a meeting was held for those who signed up. More than 30 people attended and volunteer groups were organized. Some volunteers gathered donations from friends in order to purchase a tent and a sign, others worked on generating press, and some worked on inviting potential farmers and vendors.
In May, with permission from the City of Ruston, the market launched in a public parking lot at the corner of Railroad Avenue and South Monroe. It was decided to run the market every Saturday morning through mid August, take a break for replanting in August and September, and then start up again in fall through to the holidays.
Our first Taste of Summer Fest was held to celebrate the bounty of the season. Vendors provided tasting samples of their products.
North Louisiana Farm Fresh Inc. (NLFF) was incorporated in Louisiana and a board was formed from volunteers, vendors, health professionals, and other interested individuals. Goals for NLFF were established including support for local agriculture by operating the market, education about where food comes from, and health and nutritional awareness.
The market continued to grow and attract more vendors and customers.
NLFF received nonprofit 501(c)3 status from the IRS.
2015 was a big year for Ruston Farmers Market and North Louisiana Farm Fresh for a number of reasons. First, Mayor Ronny Walker offered NLFF to use an unused city-owned warehouse so the market could escape the vagaries of the weather. NLFF signed a cooperative endeavor agreement with the City to operate the market at 220 East Mississippi Avenue behind the Historic Fire Station.
The board of NLFF threw a successful capital campaign fundraising farm-to-table dinner in order to make over $30,000 in repairs and modifications to the warehouse. A very large overhead door was installed on the south side, accessible bathrooms were added, and some parts were painted.
NLFF applied for, and won, three grants:
A $47,784 two-year grant from USDA Agricultural Marketing Service's Farmers Market Promotion Program. These funds were used to hire our first paid part-time market manager as well as promote the market and purchase equipment for our new space.
A $5,000 grant from Plum Creek Foundation, now Weyerhauser, to help furnish our new space.
A $5,705 grant from Lincoln Health Foundation to match up to $10 in SNAP dollars spent at the market ,
2016 was an even bigger year for the market!
The spring quarter mural class in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University, headed by Professor Nick Bustamante, painted a mural on the outside of the building before our grand opening.
The market opened in May in the new space with a grand opening held in June.
At the close of the year, the market experienced a record number of vendors and customers. Agricultural vendors grew to 25 with the total number of vendors almost doubling.
The economic impact of the market generated over $174,000. These are dollars that stay in the community.
The market experienced even more growth with 75 vendors (35 agricultural vendors) and over $214,000 in sales to vendors.
NLFF was awarded another grant of $4,600 from the Lincoln Health Foundation to continue to match up to $10 in SNAP benefits spent on eligible items at the market.
Vendors experienced over $234,000 in sales.
NLFF Put the Market Manager on full-time to better facilitate the operations, and use of the market and to offer agriculture consultation and more hands-on administration of the Market.
North Louisiana Farm Fresh is committed to administering Ruston Farmers Market wisely, bringing economic opportunities to our farmers and other vendors, and bringing healthy, local food choices to our community.
Our vendors experienced a record setting $307,000.00 in sales.