Patterson Wheel Barrel Farmers Market opens Saturday

PATTERSON, La. — The Patterson Wheel Barrel Farmers Market’s grand opening is set from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 1115 First St. near Patterson Junior High School.

The Farmers Market allows vendors to sell locally and regionally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, canned goods, preserves, packaged seafood and crafts.

The market will operate on the first and third weekends of the month beginning in May. Vendors will sell their goods from 12 rented stalls. The Farmers Market will also be a source of information and services related to higher education for students and adults, health screening and food nutrition. Health screenings are expected to include checks on blood pressure and blood sugar.

The choice of spelling Wheel Barrel is a play on words, according to Renata Deemer, co-owner of The ReLei Group and a promoter of the market.

The Wheel Barrel Farmers Market is the fruition of an idea seeded decades ago after a young man left his roots in Patterson but never forgot about from where he came.

Edward James Valeau left home to pursue his education and eventually became president of Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif., for 12 years. Currently living near San Francisco, Valeau said he wanted to do something for his home town. He began looking for a way to develop a community project that would emphasize nutrition along with education and health.

Valeau said his family had sharecropped a plot of land in Patterson when he was a boy.

While his father worked in cane fields and his mother worked as a domestic, he and his siblings would go door to door in Patterson and sell fresh vegetables from the sharecropped land. The land on which they lived and own, and on which the Farmers Market is located, was cultivated and used to feed the family.

The sharecropping and peddling experience gave birth to the wheelbarrow concept from whence the Farmers Market gets part of its name.

“It wasn’t always pleasant,” said Valeau regarding peddling his wheelbarrow full of vegetables. “But, it taught me how to deal with people and with rejection.”

Patterson Mayor Rodney Grogan says that Valeau “has given back to the community by constructing a very nice facility to increase accessibility to healthy fruits and vegetables.”

In a gesture of support for the Patterson schools, Valeau has made two of the stalls available for use by the schools.

“These kids won’t have to peddle from door to door like I did,” says Valeau. “They will be in a safe and attractive location.” He also said that he hopes to work with the community and establish some sort of scholarship to help promote education.

Patterson High Principal Rachel Wilson said that the high school will make the booths available to different clubs and sponsors for fundraising activities.

“We are very lucky to have this opportunity,” said Wilson.

Valeau said that he utilized his nephew Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle’s construction expertise and oversight, and with the support of Grogan and the city council, to pave the parking area and build the stalls with access to water and electricity.

Valeau expects to have health screening available on site at the market for its grand opening. His younger sister Dianne Johnson, a retired registered nurse, indicated she would be involved in some of the screenings.

“I think this is a beautiful project,” said Johnson with pride. “My brother has opened the town a lot of avenues.”

Information on the Patterson Wheel Barrel Farmers Market can be accessed at www.wbfmpatterson.com. Call 985-255-0530 for information on renting the stalls.

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