Southeastern grad student helps revitalize farmers market

Thursday, November 19, 2015 Farmers Market
by: Rene Abadie

MAKING THE ROUNDS – Southeastern graduate student Ashton Herron makes her early morning rounds at the Hammond Farmers Market on a recent Saturday morning. Herron has been credited with revitalizing the market and attracting an increasing number of vendors, as well as visitors to the weekly event.

     HAMMOND – When Ashton Herron was an undergraduate student in sociology at Southeastern Louisiana University, her interest in environmental sociology – including the important role locally produced food could play in a community – began to spark.
     So when the opportunity to see what a local food system looks like from “seed to table,” Herron jumped at the opportunity to participate in an internship with Vintage Garden Farm, a program of ARC Enterprises in New Orleans.
     David Burley, associate professor of sociology, works to connect students with internship opportunities. He meets with the students and checks their grades and work ethic before partnering them with organizations that can increase their work and networking experience. The effort fits in with Southeastern’s efforts designed to enhance students’ academic experiences through internships and other partnerships with businesses and organizations.
     Burley selected Herron to participate in the program because of her “incredible work ethic and passion about social justice issues.”
     While working with ARC Enterprises, Herron said that initial spark of interest grew stronger, and soon, she says, “I was like a freshly lit firecracker. I learned so much from the experience, such as how food is grown, processed and delivered to the consumer. It was a tremendous experience.”
     Now Herron is assisting Burley in aiding other students who are seeking similar opportunities, both in Louisiana and out of state.
     The experience gave her the background to apply for the open position of manager of the Hammond Farmer’s Market.
     “The city was looking for a market manager, and I knew Ashton would be a perfect fit for the position,” said Burley.
     A native of Central and now a graduate student in Southeastern’s Applied Sociology program, Herron is now working as manager of the market. In her brief time at the market, she has enhanced it to create a weekly congregation of farmers, artists and other vendors. What was once a gathering of only a handful of vendors, the market now has over 25 participating vendors on any given weekend.
     Terry Lynn Smith, retired director of the Hammond Downtown Development District and founder of the market, commends Herron for the effort and success of the market, saying “Ashton keeps the market organized and managed. She is fair and sincere with all the vendors.”
     “Ashton turned the Hammond Farmers Market around, from a really struggling venture to an enterprise that could rival any in the state,” adds Burley.
     Herron is looking forward to the day when the market has a permanent facility in Hammond as opposed to its current location along the railroad tracks.
     “This is now in the planning phase and would enable us to provide our community with farm fresh produce, plants, food, art and much more,” she said.

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