Opportunity Knocks

June 10

This weekend the first Franklin Farmer’s Market will kick off under the Old City Market on Willow Street.
   This is big, exciting stuff.
   It’s been in the works for a bit now. And it’s finally coming to fruition.
   Make sure you go, if you’re the least bit interested. But here’s a nickel’s worth of advice for organizers, vendors and customers, for free.
   Things take time. One of the weaknesses I’ve noticed in this community for many decades is that if something doesn’t fly right away, people give up.
   Don’t make that mistake this time.
   It’s going to take a little time, but it will work. Keep at it, and it’ll be a success. Farmer’s markets work, they’re usually extraordinarily successful, and a vital part of a community. Don’t get bummed out if it doesn’t happen overnight.
   It’ll work if we all stand behind it. It’ll work if we recognize the opportunity we’ve taken advantage of and utilize it to its fullest potential.
   Hope to see you out there.
   Thanks for all the kind words and notes about my “Rock and Roll” column last week. Glad to know I’m not the last relic left around here!
   We wrapped up a series of tourism meetings last week with a consultant who was secured to help develop a plan for Franklin and the surrounding area.
   That plan, in “final draft” form, highlights our weaknesses, our strengths and our potential.
   You can narrow it down to three things, really: The historic quality of the city, the natural environs and the bears.
   All three are go-to destinations elsewhere. They can be the same here.
   Here’s an item from the Teche News newspaper:
   “BREAUX BRIDGE – Tourism professionals from four parishes met here this week to discuss the possibility of staging a canoe and kayak race on Bayou Teche from its headwaters at Port Barre to where it empties into the Atchafalaya River at Berwick.
   “At 124 miles, a Bayou Teche paddle race would be only the third ‘super marathon’ in the United States and one of only a half a dozen in the world.
   “As envisioned so far, a Bayou Teche race would have USCA racing divisions, but to broaden the attraction it would also have divisions for aluminum canoes, standard cruisers, kayaks and pirogues.
   “The race would probably be ‘won’ in less than 24 hours, but any paddlers finishing it in a long weekend, under say a 52-hour deadline, would certainly come away with bragging rights.
   There could also be timed legs so paddlers could camp out and enjoy themselves instead of paddling all night like the more serious racers.”
   Read that last paragraph again, please.
   Here, ladies and germs, is a golden opportunity.
   Those paddlers, whether they complete the trail in 24 hours or 52 hours, will be looking for amenities.
   If we don’t provide them here, somebody else will.
   It’s primo. It’s made-to-order. We need a facility for paddlers anyway. This could be a jumpstart, the impetus we’ve needed to get it done.
   If it becomes a regular event, we’ll be ahead of the game. And we’ll also be able to accommodate the many, many others who have wanted to take a canoe or a kayak through our vast natural ecosystems, oh, and yeah, drop a little money into the economy while they’re at it.
   It’s like a sign. An omen. If we don’t invite them in and make them comfortable, New Iberia will. Morgan City will. Somebody else will.
   Parish, municipal officials, chamber and business people ought to be on this like gravy on rice, and just as soon as word reaches their ears that this has a green light a plan and a construction schedule ought to be in place. We need to be organizing, forming a collective front to be ready.
   Opportunity knocks rarely. You have to answer the door.
   Let’s return to the farmer’s market again.
   The thought arises as a result of the upcoming market of a community garden.
   Now, this isn’t some retro-hippy, flower-child notion. It’s an inexpensive and brilliant way to bring a community together and serve a common good.
   Community gardens, according to the American Community Garden Association:
   —Improve the quality of life for people in the garden
   —Provide a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
   —Stimulate social interaction
   —Encourage self-reliance
   —Beautify neighborhoods
   —Produce nutritious food
   —Reduce family food budgets
   —Conserve resources
   —Create opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
   —Reduce crime
   —Preserve green space
   —Create income opportunities and economic development
   —Reduce city heat from streets and parking lots
   —Provide opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections
   Here’s one description of what community gardens are all about, lifted from Wikipedia online:
   “Land for a community garden can be publicly or privately held. One strong tradition in American community gardening in urban areas is cleaning up abandoned vacant lots and turning them into productive gardens. Alternatively, community gardens can be seen as a health or recreational amenity and included in public parks, similar to ball fields or playgrounds. Some gardens are grown collectively, with everyone working together; others are split into clearly divided plots, each managed by a different gardener (or group or family). Many community gardens have both ‘common areas’ with shared upkeep and individual/family plots.
   “Gardeners may form a grassroots group to initiate the garden, such as the Green Guerrillas of New York City, or a garden may be organized ‘top down’ by a municipal agency. The community gardening movement in North American prides itself on being inclusive, diverse, pro-democracy, and supportive of community involvement. Gardeners may be of any cultural background, young or old, new gardeners or seasoned growers, rich or poor. A garden may have only a few people active, or hundreds.
   “Some are managed by non-profit organizations, such as a community gardening association, a church, or other land-owner; others by a city’s recreation or parks department, a school or university. In most cases, gardeners are expected to pay annual dues to help with garden upkeep, and the organization must manage these fees. The tasks in a community garden are endless, keeping up the area’s appearance, mulching paths, recruiting new members, reminding members to tend plots when they get weedy, fundraising, the list goes on... Sensible rules and an ‘operations manual’ are both invaluable tools, and ideas for both are available at ACGA and other sites.”
   I think this is a natural for our community, especially with the upcoming farmer’s market.
   Remember: Opportunity rarely knocks. You gotta answer the door.