We’ve posted before about Hollygrove Market and Farm, how much we like it, and our weekly $25 box.
However, each week we kept remarking to ourselves that the market shoppers looked less like the Hollygrove residents, and more like visitors to a Whole Foods Arabella Station annex.
First things first, I’ve said before that we like the market, and that we think it’s a good thing. They have become our produce supplier of choice; when I talk about the look and demographic of the shoppers, I include myself in that number.
That said, the market and its location raise some interesting questions. Unlike the Crescent City Farmer’s market, Hollygrove lies within a low income demographic. The population is overwhelmingly African American, the percentage of single-mother households is higher than that of the overall New Orleans area, 28.2% of the residents have income below the poverty level, and residents are less likely than the general population of New Orleans to have high school, college, or graduate degrees. None of this is surprising, but it is worth looking at the numbers to confirm anecdotal impressions.
If you build it, they will come, or so goes the cliché. In this case, it doesn’t appear to apply. So, we have two questions:
1) Why aren’t the neighborhood residents coming to the market?
2) Should we even care if they don’t?
I’ll cover the second question in part two of this post. In order to answer the first, I contacted Kevin Fitzwilliam at the Hollygrove Market, and asked the following questions:
The Saturday shoppers (ourselves included), look very different from the demographic of the Hollygrove neighborhood. Are you getting residents of the surrounding streets into the market?
What sort of outreach is in place or planned in order to make the buyer demographic more congruent with the residential demographic?
Does the market have goals or targets in place to achieve this?
Kevin was good enough to answer. He confirmed our observation on the make-up of his customer base, provided me with his analysis of the reasons for the disconnect, and outlined the specifics of outreach efforts, both current and proposed. I found his response detailed, candid, and I think reassuring for anyone concerned about how the Market intends to achieve its stated mission.
We’ll get into the politics of Rich Food/ Poor Food in part two, but see below Kevin’s response in it’s entirety and judge it for yourself:
“You are right that the vast majority of customers are not coming from
the neighborhood. I’d say that at least 90% of the customers are
coming from elsewhere around the city — Uptown, Bywater, Mid-City,
you name it. The customers are mostly white, highly educated, and
often are involved in the city’s rebuilding in some way.
We have done almost no advertising in the city to promote our store.
We have steadily, incrementally increased our membership over the last
year without it. That has been by design, so that demand could never
outpace supply. So, the customers who are more tech-savvy (e.g. those
aforementioned) are the ones who discovered on list-servs, blogs, etc.
Whereas, the neighborhood of Hollygrove is not technological. It’s a
very phone-oriented neighborhood. So that’s one reason.
Another reason has to do with our main product — the $25 box of
produce. Spending twenty-five bucks on produce that has been
pre-determined for you is not appealing to a lot of people in the
neighborhood. In fact, it’s not really all that appealing to us!
Simply, it is what currently pays the bills. We are still in the
midst of determining the make-up of the store, buying the POS system,
etc. Until the Saturday buyers’ club gets dissolved into the actual
store, there will always be a roadblock between us and more potential
shoppers (even some of our regular customers openly wish the store was
complete). We believe that once the store is open, when people can
freely shop for groceries of their choice, there will be a lot more
patronage from the neighborhood. I’ve heard that sentiment time and
time again from people in the neighborhood.
Concerning outreach to the neighborhood, we’ve (along with NOFFN)
hosted parties for the neighborhood during the holidays. Glenn David
Andrews played music at the Christmas event which was wonderful. I’d
estimate that fifty people from the neighborhood were there at that
one. The upstairs area of the building is being renovated so that
neighborhood groups will be able to meet on site, which is something
we’ve already done downstairs with the AARP group from the
neighborhood. We have also done tours and activities with kids’
groups during the summer. We are looking into developing a working
relationship with the local school, Lafayette Charter. Also, one of
the permanent growers on site is a resident of the neighborhood. His
name is Dr. Michael Beauchamp. He is a pharmacist and has lived in
Hollygrove for his entire life. He mentors a young kid from
Hollygrove at his garden, too. I have also spoken to the the group of
Hollygrove backyard growers about the Market and plans for community
involvement. One such plan in the future is a child- or