On Tuesdays and Saturdays, Crescent City Farmers Market shoppers can buy vegetables from Timmy Perilloux of Perilloux Farms in Montz. Perilloux also sells produce to restaurants and participates in German Coast Farmers Markets in Destrehan and Boutte. He talked to Gambit just before last week's freeze.
How did you get your start farming?
Perilloux: I've been growing vegetables on this property in St. Charles Parish since 1977. I wasn't actually a full-time farmer then. I had a full-time job at an oil terminal close to my house. When they closed in 1997, I was able to retire. So I stuck with my pumpkin patch, which is what I had going at the time, and every October children would come on field trips from school. Because I was able to retire, instead of going to work for someone else, I just wanted to continue with the pumpkin patch the whole month of October. Then I said, "I'm going to do a little bit of farming." And once I started doing some farmers markets around New Orleans and in Destrehan it became became quite big. So that's what I do now.
What vegetables do you grow and how do winter freezes affect your produce?
P: In fall, winter and spring, I can grow cabbage, purple and gold cauliflower, broccoli, Romanesco (broccoli), collard greens, mustards, turnips, carrots, beets, spinach, bok choy, shallots, parsley, four different kinds of kale, radishes, artichokes and kohlrabi. I also have thousands of red and white onion plants.
A freeze is going to hurt some things. It's going to affect any of the cauliflower that's headed up already. I just picked the big ones yesterday and got them out to the market, but the smaller ones that are left out in the field — about softball sized — two freezing nights in a row will destroy those. We have a lot of cabbage left, but some will freeze solid. What will survive, I hope, is the smaller cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Romanesco plants — the ones that are not quite started to make the full head — and also the other plants I have that are very small. And of course I have the greenhouse, with about 8,000 to 9,000 plants in there, and those should be fine.
How do you work with restaurants?
P: It's not just a great experience, but it's also good business. For instance, Donald Link, his four restaurants will come pick up at my farm as well as the markets. Then we have Mike Doyle with Maurepas Foods, Ian Schnoebelen from Iris and Mariza, Jeff (Talbot) with Ancora is buying more and more all the time. Dominique (Macquet) too — he concentrates mostly on Romanesco and kohlrabi, but he will buy white cauliflower and occasionally a few bunches of mustard greens. Cochon restaurant, in particular — wow, collard greens. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't even plant collards. They'll buy 60 to 70 bunches of collards a week, it's unbelievable how much they use.
I love doing this. As older farmers have died out, nobody is replacing them. In our area, St. Charles Parish, I'm the largest vegetable grower in the parish, according to the county agent. That's terrible. I wish there were people bigger than me, but this is it. It's like that all over. There are hardly anymore vegetable farmers left. That's bad in general, but it can be good for me, because it cuts down on the competition. But I can stay in competition, I'd have no problem with that. I don't overcharge anybody because there's maybe a shortage of local vegetables, and it's worked out wonderful for me. I'll come out here with this truck full, and sell that in four hours. It's really great.