Mini-Flood 23: Soulard Farmers Market

soulardfarmersmarket12

photograph by Ann Aurbach

Established in 1779, Soulard Farmers Market claims to be the oldest continuous farmers market in the United States. Replacing a building destroyed by the Great Tornado in 1896, the current structure was erected in 1929 and emulates the Foundling Hospital in Florence, Italy (designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419). Today, the Market remains a hive of activity with vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to elk jerky and custom spices.

soulardfarmersmarket06

photograph by Kristi Foster Photography

soulardfarmersmarket19

photograph by Jason Gray

soulardfarmersmarket07

photograph by Jeni Kulka

soulardfarmersmarket15

photograph by Sasi Suruliraj

soulardfarmersmarket13

photograph by Ann Aurbach

St. Louis is an old city, older than the country, in fact. It is not surprising then, that in 2014, there are places in the city that seem either innate to the landscape (Art Hill, Ead’s Bridge, the Levee) or else inherited from earlier generations (Fox Theatre, Bevo Mill, Civil Courts Building); these are places that few people (if any) alive today remember the origins of. Soulard Farmers Market is a bit of both. On one hand, the Market appears like such a sturdy fixture of its neighborhood that it must have predated it, maybe even caused it. In reality, the building is young enough that the opposite is true, but the Market, as a concept, did come about in Soulard’s early days. Antoine Soulard, namesake of one of South St. Louis’ most recognizable districts, donated a parcel of undeveloped farm land in 1779 to become a place to trade goods for the area’s food producers, and the communal aspect of the future great market was born.

soulardfarmersmarket01

photograph by Mandi Gray

soulardfarmersmarket16

photograph by Sasi Suruliraj

soulardfarmersmarket04

photograph by Kristi Foster Photography

soulardfarmersmarket11

photograph by Scott Jackson

soulardfarmersmarket18

photograph by Jason Gray

This is where inheritance comes into play. The continued success of Soulard Farmers Market depends upon ideals passed from generation to generation. In its early days, the Market existed with very little competition, and swelled to become a massive daily event. However, even as food stores opened in the surrounding neighborhood and beyond, the Market continued to draw crowds despite being less convenient. Partially, this was due to the wholesale nature of the products sold (buying directly from the farmer usually means better deals), but I would like to think that a cultural component contributed as well. At the Market, you might run into old friends or meet new ones, and the experience was always peppered by the mystery of what you might find for sale. Eventually though, the sign of the times did catch up with Soulard Farmers Market; with much of the city’s population living in the suburbs, and supermarkets (with freeway access) offering both competitive prices and convenience, the Market suffered through the middle decades of the 20th century.

soulardfarmersmarket08

photograph by Jeni Kulka

soulardfarmersmarket03

photograph by Amanda Miller

soulardfarmersmarket02

photograph by Mandi Gray

soulardfarmersmarket10

photograph by Scott Jackson

Beginning in the 1970’s, when pockets of urban revitalization started to occur in areas of South St. Louis like Lafayette Square, Soulard, and Cherokee Street (all nearby Soulard Farmers Market), interest in buying things “the old way” rekindled. Once again, the Market filled with buyers and sellers, as well as, street performers and musicians, all of who contribute to the unique experience of shopping there. Today, the Market perseveres, and long lines throng the stalls every Saturday morning. However, the selling methodology, though nostalgic, is outmoded, and for the Market to survive unto the next generation, it needs to feel relevant again, something difficult to do in an era of online shopping.

soulardfarmersmarket20

photograph by Jason Gray

soulardfarmersmarket14

photograph by Ann Aurbach

soulardfarmersmarket09

photograph by Jeni Kulka

soulardfarmersmarket05

photograph by Kristi Foster Photography

So, what can be done to make sure that the Market goes on? For a start, how about committing to visit Soulard Farmers Market at least once a month, where you can buy your cooking spices at the Soulard Spice Shop, pick up some fresh meat at the Frandeka Meat Market, score loads of succulent produce, bushels of bright flowers, listen to live music, and maybe run into a friend (or make a new one)? Make no mistake, Soulard Farmers Market is a part of our very fabric as St. Louisans, and it is important that we all work to preserve it.

soulardfarmersmarket17

photograph by Sasi Suruliraj

MAP:
10363329_788274757879752_4914299065093614652_n

0 Comments

Leave a reply

©2017 Photo Flood Saint Louis

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account

Skip to toolbar