Fresh From the Farm
"Local food" doesn't get any more local than this. Nearly everything sold at Ed Lester Farms is grown on Ed's land. But that's not the only thing that makes this spot, about 45 minutes southeast of Shreveport, different from your average farmers market. Tucked up against the road and a stone's throw from the lazy Red River, this is a place to soak up a little bit of summer.
Blues music pours from the branches of a sprawling live oak. Underneath those branches, shoppers meander through the open-air market, examining displays of vibrant produce. Kids climb on the wrought iron benches, busying themselves while dad takes his time making the most of Ed's "World Famous Jalapeño Grab." Stopping here reminds you why summer is the best season in the South.
Ed is the fifth generation to farm this land. He started when he was 8 years old, selling purple hull peas by the road. His father figured the experience would be a good one and would keep his son busy for the summer. Mission accomplished. Now Ed employs 18 people in the peak season.
There's a lot to harvest and sell: onions, leeks, okra, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, peas, beans, tomatoes, peaches, corn, and snap beans. In total, about 100 different selections are available from 30 various crops. "When you buy something from us, it's grown here and it's usually hours old when you buy it," Ed says.
More Than Veggies
It isn't just the good produce that draws people here though. It's the atmosphere Ed and his wife, Lisa, cultivate. "I like to see people have a good time and enjoy themselves," Ed says. "We want things here to look nice, sound nice, and smell nice."
Brightly planted borders adorn the walkways, and colorful flags unfurl in the breeze by the awning that shades the more delicate produce. One bushel basket of peppers features the intriguing sign proclaiming that famous jalapeño grab. The concept: Fit as many peppers as you can in a one-handed scoop for $1. Ed says it's his fun way of "getting rid of too many jalapeños. People stand there and really think hard about how to get as many as they can."
Whether the customers are doing it out of thriftiness or just for fun, it doesn't matter. What matters--to Ed as well as the visitors lucky enough to find themselves here--are the smiles on their faces when they're done.
Ed Lester Farms: www.edlesterfarms.com or 1-800-256-3276. The market is located on State 84 just outside Coushatta, Louisiana, and about 15 minutes off I-49. Open mid-May through early August.
"Fresh From the Farm" is from the June 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.