Almost everyone enjoys walking through a farmer’s market looking at the offerings of the local farmers and craftsmen, but very few attendees can enjoy doing it in the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase and under the banks of a well-known river. Well, Natchitoches, Louisiana is really not the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase , but it is about 300 years old and Red River changed its meandering course over a hundred years ago to leave behind the beautiful Cane River Lake , but you get the point.
Market Dates and Times
Natchitoches is better known for its annual fireworks display every Christmas, but the locals and the tour bus companies know the Cane River Green Market is a big draw for spring and summer. From the last Saturday in April to the last Saturday in July, the vendors are set up and ready at 8 am when the opening bell rings letting everyone in the Historic District know it is time to get on with the music and other activities that support the market place until noon .
It is a most unique experience for a really small market. Not only will you find lots of local produce, bake goods, jams, jellies, pickles, fresh cut flowers and herbs, organic products, and much, much more, there are also hand-crafted items such as jewelry, woodwork, stained glass, needlework, and all kinds of local artist offerings. When I was setting up, my vendor booth had fresh ground corn meal, hot Mexican corn bread, candied jalapeno peppers, hot pickles, spicy salsa, big saucer-sized chocolate-chip or sugar cookies, soy candles, and a selection of produce from our truck farm. Every day at this market is a different experience for both the shopper and the vendor!
On most days the market managers also have other events planned for you to enjoy. Local bands entertain under the hundred-year-old oaks or on the near by bandstand while local and school organizations give demonstrations on gardening or handicrafts. Children’s activities, special speakers, and free “goodies” are also a desirable addition to the Saturday morning festivities!
The Cane River Green Market itself is located under the old banks of where the Red River carved its course long ago and within just a few feet of the current Cane River Lake where you can relax on wrought iron benches as you enjoy the cool breezes and watch the ducks waddle their way across the grass or swim by in the blue water or you can shop while cars whiz by on the bridge above your head.
The vendor booths are only part of the market as the whole town gets involved with whatever happens below the riverbank! After enjoying the Green Market, you can climb the stairs to walk the brick streets of Natchitoches , stop for a pint in one of the taverns or shop for antiques, books, collectibles, or souvenirs in the quaint shops up top. I particularly loved to shop at Kaffie-Frederick’s Mercantile when I lived in Natchitoches in the mid-1960s as the store had been around at least a hundred years by then and had the greatest collection of items from a time already past. The store still carries the red wagons every child dreams of owning.
But if you are not into shopping, you can ride a horse drawn carriage around the historical district while you take in the sights of the town. The driver will point out the house built from a wrecked steam boat, as well as the house where Sally Fields, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, and others filmed the movie Steel Magnolia. Just a block away from the house is the American Cemetery that was also shown in the movie. The cemetery was started in the early 1700s and supposedly has an Indiana Princess buried in a tree somewhere among the iron crosses and 275-year-old graves.
Meat Pies and Alligator Bites
Just a block away from the market and well within easy walking distance is a museum, as well as a genealogical library located in the old bell-towered courthouse. On the same block as the museum is Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant . Or if you want to try something a bit more different you might want to make a short trip north to check out the Bayou Pierre Alligator Farm and try a delicate treat of alligator bites or alligator sausage if their booths are not open at the market the day you visit. But be sure to stop by the nearby Visitors Center to pick up a map as you may want to also tour some of the 300-year-old plantation homes. Come and enjoy. This is one farmer’s market you just can’t miss!