Kevin Ardoin moved to Lafayette from Crowley when he was 21 and promptly fell in love with the place, especially his neighborhood — Fightinville on the Northside.
“Back when Lafayette was still ‘Vermillionville,’” he explains. “That area was considered outside of the city limits. And because it wasn’t dignified to fight inside the city limits, people would go there to have duels. Sword fights! So the area became known as ‘Fightinville.’”
Kevin felt welcomed from the first in Fightinville, even if he didn’t always understand his neighbors’ way with food.
“When I came up, everybody had a garden in the backyard,” he says. “That was a no-brainer. But when you come to the city, it’s like — people buy this? You could grow it off your back porch! Why would you buy it?”
He graduated with a degree in agriculture from UL, and in 2019 turned his passion for farming into a career by founding Zydeco Farms. That same year, on Juneteenth, he opened Fightinville Fresh, a farmers’ market in the same neighborhood that took him in almost 30 years earlier.
“It’s like an oasis,” he says. “Because the neighborhood is changing so much with gentrification. The market is one of the last holdouts. A piece of the neighborhood that’s still there for the neighborhood.”
Kevin says the biggest misconception about farming is “that it’s only for white people.” In the coming generations, he wants to see “more minority farmers, minority shopkeepers, minorities in agriculture” becoming their own bosses and growing the kind of food that gives them dignity to cook and eat.
“I want to see us get to the point where we empower people to feed themselves instead of always feeding them,” he says. He notes that there’s always a “catch” when it comes to giveaways, and points to the high percentage of food stamp dollars that go to big businesses instead of local ones.
“When you’re boosting up a SNAP card, you’re boosting up Walmart,” he says. “You’re not boosting up a community.”
More than just a market, Fightinville is an opportunity to lead by example, Kevin says, and expose his neighbors to agricultural professions and business opportunities they might not have considered possible before.
Because for him, farming’s the perfect vocation. “Just being in nature, watching something grow from a seed to a plant, being in control of your own destiny,” he says, his face brightening. “It’s just empowering.”
Celebrate Kevin and the rest of this year’s honorees Nov. 4 at the Lafayette Science Museum. Get your tickets here.