Laughing Buddha is a plant nursery, grocery store and soil shop. It’s also the Metairie hub from which Grant and Kate Estrade, the couple that runs Local Cooling Farms in Bogalusa, sell and deliver their farm’s pork and eggs. They’re holding a launch party for their brand of boudin sausage Oct. 26 at Brieux Carre Brewing Company.
The Estrades’ model supplies customers in a variety of ways. People can walk into the store at 4516 Clearview Parkway to buy locally produced pork, eggs, beef, vegetables, dairy, preserves and fermented foods like kimchi, or they can order selections for pickup in a neighborhood convenient to them through a hub delivery model. Local Cooling Farms also sells to restaurants, including Lilette, La Boulangerie and Bellegarde Bakery.
Grant founded the Laughing Buddha Nursery in 2003, and the operation has evolved. He had no horticultural degree, just a love for gardening and a background in retail. Grant became interested in vegetable gardening and organic growing, and after Hurricane Katrina, he began selling nutrient-rich soil to customers rebuilding their gardens and eventually added a composting business.
Along the way, Grant purchased the land in Bogalusa that would eventually become Local Cooling Farms. He met Kate, a Wisconsin native, when she came into the nursery to buy worms for composting. The couple started raising pigs at the farm, followed by chickens. Four years ago, the duo decided to get serious about farming.
“It got to the point where I was just like ‘Let’s do this and start working on the business model,’” Grant says.
The Estrades looked to an out-of-state farm with a sustainable agricultural model they admired and began to apply its principles to Local Cooling Farm. That included the delivery hub model, which now serves eight hubs around town on a biweekly basis: Broadmoor at Propeller, Covington, the Irish Channel at Miel Brewery, Lakeview, Algiers Point, Uptown, Mid-City at Second Line Brewing and the Bywater.
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“The breweries are fun,” Kate says. “You can have a beer, get food from a pop-up and get your groceries.”
The Estrades serve as aggregators for these deliveries, supplying their own pork and eggs along with goods from other farmers whose products they trust. These include grass-finished beef, chicken, goat and lamb, dairy from Mauthe’s Progress Milk Barn and four to five vegetable growers per week.
The Estrades also use their pork in sausage: Grant’s Andouille and just-released Kate’s Boudin. They hold a boudin release party Saturday, Oct. 26 at Brieux Carre Brewing Company, serving fried boudin balls and cracklings starting at 1 p.m.
Grant says their delivery hub model is different from a traditional CSA because there is no minimum order requirement or number of weeks, and customers can purchase only what they want from the weekly selection of available items. He hopes careful planning will help them avoid the fate of Good Eggs and the Hollygrove Market & Farm, whose failures he attributes to rapid growth and management issues rather than a shortage of demand.
Grant prefers not to sell through farmers’ markets because he believes they discourage competition.
“If there’s one guy selling pork sausages at the market, they’re not going to allow another vendor to sell pork sausage, even if one is bratwurst and one is boudin,” Grant says. “It gives that guy a monopoly and doesn’t give customers the choice.”
For now, the Estrades are focused on promoting sales in-store and through the delivery hubs.
“The margins on this business — we’re not selling furniture or jewelry,” Grant says. “It’s a live product, not a bottle that sits on a shelf for five months. With these products, you sell it or smell it.”
According to the Estrades, they are the only aggregator in the New Orleans area providing this service, though similar models exist elsewhere in the state. They hope to attract customers interested in eating a locally sourced diet.