Marché Saxe-Breteuil may be the only market in the 7th arrondissement but, with its photogenic setting aside the Eiffel Tower and its extensive choice of locally-grown ingredients, it has everything you could want out of a neighborhood marché.
Tourists and locals are drawn to this stretch on Avenue de Saxe twice a week to pick up fresh produce and browse the selection of cashmere sweaters and occasional antiques which remind you that you're in one of the most posh neighborhoods of Paris.
On Thursdays, two or three independent producers set up stands and sell seasonal fruits and vegetables. Saturday sees the producteur population double in response to the hordes of weekend shoppers.
My favorite stand at Marché Saxe-Breteuil belongs to Mr. Le Trepied a farmer from Jargeau in the Loiret department of France. Located about 95 miles south of Paris, the farm specializes in heirloom varieties. Their harvest never fails to surprise with a wide selection of légumes oubliés. This truly is a great place to stop if you're suffering from the end of season I'm-totally-over-eating-beets blues.
Shoppers gather at Le Trepied's stand not just for the exceptional produce, but also to visit Salah Lemaire the charismatic vendor who brings life to this vegetable booth. Carefully slicing a chervil root, Salah will distribute samples among a line of ladies who then confer, exchanging opinions, interjections, and eventual recipes.
While selling seems to come naturally to Salah, he didn't start at the market stand. His first year and a half with Mr. Le Trepied were spent working on the farm, where he was one of the few young people on the team. "It's hard work" Salah explained to me- citing this as one reason the younger crowd stays away from agricultural work.
Le Trepied eventually split his team into two- a farming team and a market team, and Salah took to his new post at the marché. Twice a week he makes the two-hour trip to Marché Saxe-Breteuil where he competes with wholesale vegetable vendors and other stands stocked with unseasonal anomalies.
Market goers aren't the only ones happy to have Le Trepied's farm-fresh produce on site, Salah explained to me that the city of Paris specifically invited the farm to be present at Marché Saxe-Breteuil in a commendable effort to bring farmers back to the markets.
"If you go 20 kilometers outside the city the markets are filled with farmers" Salah explained, "many farmers prefer to go to the local markets or have people come to their farms to buy vegetables"- an economic and logical alternative to renting space and splitting your team in two in order to manage both farm and the market duties.
With all the obstacles that challenge farmers- smaller farming teams and the time constraints they face, the cost of transport and distribution, and the impact of imported industrial foods that flood the markets- Parisians can count themselves lucky to have farmers like Le Trepied who will come to the city, especially when they bring someone like Salah to our markets!
Thanks so much to Salah for taking the time to talk with me!
Marché Saxe-Breteuil is on Thursday & Saturday 7h-14h30, Avenue de Saxe, 75007