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Thursday 9am to 2pm

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  • A Non-Profit Organization

    Serving Englewood since 2011

  • Fresh Fruits

  • Fresh Baked Goods

  • Organic Produce

  • Giving Back To Our Community


A lovely day at the Englewood Farmer’s Market



One of my favorite places to go on a lazy day is a farmer’s market.

It’s really like the best of everything that is good in the world — it features freshly grown or raised food, it’s populated by friendly people, it takes place outdoors, and perhaps best of all, you can get free samples of almost everything.

When you head to the Englewood Farmer’s Market, if you don’t remember anything else about this column, don’t forget to go there hungry. Seriously, there are 60 vendors and 73 booths, and probably more than 95 percent of them are selling food items. And what better way to get you interested in purchasing what they’re selling than to let you taste it?

Take it from me, that tactic works. But as you’re eating your way through the market, just know that it’s actually food that is good for you. Take Mr. Pesto, for instance. His given name is Bob Garbowicz, but I tend to call people by whatever name they have printed on the front of their apron.

Anyway, Mr. Pesto sells sauces and yes, pestos, all made with fresh basil. And let me tell you, the man is serious about his basil.

“I grow my own basil for my tomato sauces, but my homegrown basil is not worthy of my pestos,” he said. “If you’re going to say you have the world’s greatest pesto, you start with the world’s greatest basil. All basil is not created equal.”

That’s why he gets the basil he uses in his pesto from an organic, hydroponic grower.

Fresh ingredients are also important to Richard Harmon, who owns Paradise Peanut Butter. He uses all kinds of different nuts and comes up with some incredibly creative nut butters, of which I tried a few, of course. The White Chocolate Raspberry tasted like you could put it on a sandwich and forgo the jelly, but my favorite was the Coconut, which smelled so good I didn’t know if I wanted to eat it or drink it.

All of the vendors at this nonprofit farmer’s market are distinctively unique — for instance, there are several bakers, but they all specialize in something different. The market manager, Lee Perron, said that because everything sold there has to be fresh, bakers are required tohave baked their goods the day before market, at the latest.

“That’s the type of market this is,” he said. “We have 11 growers in our market, but they have to be a local grower. The rule here is diversity, not duplication.”

All I can say is that as I left the Englewood Farmer’s Market, I took a lot of food with me, both in bags and in my belly. I asked Perron how hecould spend so much time at this market and the Venice Farmer’s Market, which he also manages, and still manage to stay so thin.

“I also spend a lot of time at the gym,” he said.

Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at dj@ flessner.net.

The Englewood Farmer’s Market is open every Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., October through May.

Bob Garbowicz, also known as “Mr. Pesto,” gives out samples to some customers who are obviously ready to buy.

One of the hallmarks of the Englewood Farmer’s Market is its large selection of various types of produce.

“Big Daddy,” of Perry’s Barbecue, is a well-loved staple at many area farmer’s markets.

You’ve never seen a pot of paella as big as this one at the booth of al-Andaluz Paellas and Tapas.


Providing classic rock musical accompaniment for my taste-testing was the talented Andre’ Lemiuex.

EFM – A foodie destination spot for south Sarasota County

Herald-Tribune – A foodies destination (FULL ARTICLE)


Englewood Farmers Market

For farm-fresh finds and prepared foods

By Vanessa Caceres


Foodies, you’ve met your match at the Englewood Farmers Market. Held on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. October through May in Old Englewood Village, the Englewood Farmers Market focuses exclusively on farm-fresh finds and prepared foods. So, want some fresh guacamole and chips? Got it. In-season produce from Florida farms? Yes, in full force. Paella, fresh seafood, or pickles? Check, check, check.

The Englewood Market draws a large crowd of people from south Sarasota County all the way down to Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, said market manager Lee Perron.

The market, sponsored by the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, got its start after a conversation in 2011 about the need for a vibrant farmers market in the area. In its first week, the market had 21 vendors and about 1,500 visitors; within three months, the market had 40 vendors and 3,000 visitors a week.

This season, the market has had about 60 vendors and 6,000 to 7,000 visitors weekly.

So what keeps people coming back?

“We have a unique focus on food and agriculture,” Perron said. “We have 11 different growers, including

Lee Perron is the market manager. [PHOTO BY VANESSA CACERES]


small farmers. We have guacamole, salsa, paella, Maggie’s Seafood, cheese, and more.”

Bottom line: If you leave the Englewood Farmers Market hungry, it’s your own fault.

Another reason for the market’s popu-larity is that it brings something fun to do to an otherwise quiet area.

“When the circus comes to town, everyone wants to see,” said Mark Web-ster, vendor and owner of The Happy Pickle.

The market also believes in giving back to the community. Through a grant program, users of SNAP (formerly food stamps) can spend double their dollars on Florida-grown produce items sold at the market. Of all the markets in Florida that take part in that program, the Englewood market has the highest usage, Perron said.

A regular cooking demonstration shows market attendees how they can easily prepare recipes with healthy ingredients from the market. The Englewood market also participates in research on how grassroots efforts such as those at the market make a difference in health outcomes.

Local elementary students have regular field trips to the market, and the market is heavily promoted via the health depar tments of both Charlotte and Sarasota counties. The SCAT bus system even stops near the market, occasionally offering free bus rides there on Thursday mornings.

Speaking of market access, parking for the market recently became a little easier. There are expanded parking lots near Green Street and on the west end of Dearborn. It’s easiest to find parking earlier in the day or after 12. The market’s busiest time is from 10 a.m. to noon.

“Once we get rolling, we’re really jammed,” Perron said.

Here’s more information on a few of the market vendors.

Venus Veggies

The folks at Venus Veggies make a two-hour drive each way from the small down of Venus to attend the Englewood Farmers Market and offer certified organic prod uce.

“Everything’s picked the day before,” said Emily Troup of Venus Veggies.

Still, she added that the hard work is worth it as they’ve developed regular customers over the past four years.

Some of their best-selling items include lettuce and black cherry tomatoes. Depending on what’s in season, Venus Veggies also has carrots, all kinds of greens, eggplants, eggs, and more.

Tropical Island Kettle Corn

If you watch visitors strolling in and out of the Englewood Market this time of year, you’ll notice two things. First, there’s a lot of talk about what people want to do before they “go back north.” Second, most everyone seems to carry long bags of kettle corn. Those visitors know about Tropical Island Kettle Corn from Punta Gorda. Owners Carol Turner and Jim Dembrowski worked with their daughter, a nutritionist, to create a sweet and salty recipe that uses less sugar.

“It tastes great,” Turner said.

And it does, perfect to munch on as you look around the market or on your drive home. FYI: Kettle corn freezes well, allowing the sugar to get crunch without losing its taste.

Weil Honey

A farmers market needs to have at least one honey vendor, and Weil Honey of Punta Gorda offers a mix of raw honey along with other health products. Fresh coconut oil, honey powder, organic numeric, Ceylon cinnamon, and apple cider vinegar are among John Weil’s other offerings. Weil has 4,000 hives around the Englewood and Punta Gorda region, so they produce a wide range of honey types, including honeybell, wildflower, and buckwheat. Some of Weil’s customers use his honey to boost their health and even help with sleep, Weil said.

The Happy Pickle

It’s easy to take pickles and olives for granted, but you probably won’t do that if you buy from The Happy Pickle of Fort Myers. mark Webster and family sell about 20 varieties of olives and pickles and participate in markets from Sarasota down to Marco Island. The kosher dills are particularly popular, as are the half-sours—sometimes called half-dills, Webster said. Their olives come from a Greek vendor. Make sure to try the olives with stuffed blue cheese.

Stamper Chees e

If you’re from Wisconsin then you know all about Wisconsin cheese. But you don’t have to be a cheesehead to appreciate Stamper Cheese, which sells a variety of cheeses from the state and offers free samples. The ever-popular cheese curds are a hit, as are the cheddar, gouda, and herbed Monterey jack varieties, said Rich Olson.

Next Gen Organics

Next Gen Organic’s Robert Ferdinandsen of Gibsonton helps people custom-build their own aquaponics and aquaculture systems to grow without pesticides and herbicides. Although this has been Ferdinandsen’s first season at the market, he has five years of experience with aquaponics and explains to visitors various sustainable farming methods.

Info: englewoodfarmersmarket.org

Emily Troup of Venus Veggies. [PHOTOS BY VANESSA CACERES]


Rich Olson of Stamper Cheese.

John Weil of Weil Honey.

It’s a Snap


It’s a “SNAP” to support Florida-grown produce at the Englewood Farmers’ Market.

Produce vendors at the market accept SNAP—short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. Now, with help from the organization Florida Organic Growers, SNAP users can stretch their food dollars with a program called Fresh Access Bucks. Under Fresh Access Bucks, SNAP participants swipe their EBT card and receive double the amount they spend, up to $20, to spend on Florida-grown fruits and vegetables.

With Fresh Access Bucks, Florida farmers get a revenue boost and SNAP participants have a more affordable way to eat healthy food. Statewide, the program is expected to boost Florida farmer revenue by $580,000 over the next two years, according to Florida Organic Growers.

The busy Englewood market has had the program since fall 2014, says Market Manager Lee Perron (see sidebar for other local farmers’ markets that accept SNAP). “We’ve been one of the top markets in the program, which shows you the percentage of need here,” he says.

Yet the market decided to ramp up its involvement with monthly cooking demonstrations that feature market-to-table recipes.

The first demonstration, held in January in partnership with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program (the program that administers SNAP) and Fresh Access Bucks, featured David Bearl, an American Culinary Federation—certified chef. Bearl made a fruit salad, salmon dish, and vegetarian quesadillas. “People loved it,” Perron says.

The demonstration is part of a continuing Florida Organic Growers series called Eat With the Seasons. The cooking demonstrations are taking place this year at 24 markets across the state that partner with the Family Nutrition Program to accept SNAP.

The program was so successful in Englewood that the market will continue cooking demonstrations on the third Thursday of each month through the rest of the season, Perron says.

The chefs in the program are given money to buy ingredients at the market and then prepare their item onsite. “The recipes act as a shopping list for people at the market,” Perron says.

The Englewood Farmers’ Market is held on Thursday mornings from October to May, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the 300 block of W. Dearborn Street. Learn more at englewoodfarmersmarket.org


In addition to Englewood Farmers’ Market, five other local markets are stretching food dollars for SNAP participants. Local markets that accept SNAP are Bradenton Farmers’ Market, Central Sarasota Farmers’ Market, Englewood Farmers’ Market, North Port Farmers’ Market, Punta Gorda Farmers’ Market, and Venice Farmers’ Market.

Venice Farmers’ Market Manager Linda Wilson regularly visits local nonprofit groups and food distribution centers to let people know they can come to her market and use SNAP to eat healthy food and support Florida farmers. “Our market is open year-round, and people have to eat year-round,” she says.

“SNAP is a win-win program designed to help the small Floridian farmer as well as those less fortunate on food stamps,” says Jerry Presseller, manager of both the North Port and Punta Gorda markets.

Recipe for success


Shoppers stroll through the Englewood Farmers Market last April. The Englewood and Venice farmers markets now accept benefit cards from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables.


The connection seems like a natural: participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) and fresh-produce vendors at farmers markets.

SNAP recipients could have access to healthy fruits and vegetables — many of them locally grown and/or organic — and vendors could expand their customer base.

Further sweetening the deal is the fact that the Florida Department of Agriculture sponsors a program that matches the benefit recipients’ expenditures dollar for dollar, up to $20.

Two Southwest Florida farmers markets — in Venice and Englewood — are already accepting SNAP cards and participating in the state-sponsored program, the Herald-Tribune’s Christi Womack reported Saturday.

The programs at the Venice and Englewood markets provide low-income residents with healthy choices while doubling their buying power through the state-sponsored plan, called Fresh Access Bucks. In addition, volunteers lead market tours and offer advice on preparing meals.

Given the 11, at last count, from Palmetto to Englewood — we hope others join the program.

Fortunately, other markets are planning to do just that.

The Sarasota Farmers Market — one of the first and the largest in the region — is considering implementing the SNAP program, Executive Director Phil Pagano told us Monday. Some individual vendors at the market already accept the SNAP cards, called Electronic Benefits Transfers, Pagano said.

“We are in conversations with the Manatee County Department of Health on how to proceed in a way that makes nutritious food more available,” Isham said in an email, “as well as education features and cooking demos to support healthy eating habits.”

The participation of the Sarasota and Bradenton farmers markets would be especially important, given their downtown locations and convenience to many beneficiaries of the SNAP and Fresh Access Bucks programs.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, made accessible and affordable to families in need, and provided by local vendors: That sounds like a recipe for success in any community.

The Bradenton Farmers Market is also interested in participating in the SNAP program, said Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, which operates the market.

Farmers markets now accepting EBT payments

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Venice and 19 other farmers markets in the state will now accept EBT cards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Those using them will get a bonus; a SNAP customer who spends $20 in the Fresh Access Bucks program will receive an additional $20 to spend on the fresh Florida food items.


VENICE – Farmers markets in Venice and Englewood are among 20 throughout the state helping low-income families stretch their shopping dollars.


SNAP program launches

Two south Sarasota County farmers markets will accept Electronics Benefits Transfer payments from people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
Venice Farmers Market
Where: 200 block of Tampa Avenue, Venice.

When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Information: Contact Linda Wilson, market manager, at 234-6321 or

Englewood Farmers Market
Where: 300 block of Dearborn Street, Englewood.

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Thursdays, October through May; official launch of SNAP program is Oct. 16.Information: Contact Lee Perron, market manager, at 548-7843 or

The program, developed by Florida Organic Growers, aims to get fresh, local foods to people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and to support local growers.Customers will swipe their Electronics Benefits Transfer cards at a machine at the market and receive tokens to pay for fruits and vegetables purchased from vendors. For each $1 they spend, they receive anadditional $1, up to $20.By doubling their buying power through the Fresh Access Bucks program, the goal is to help combat food insecurity throughout the state, said Carmen Franz, a program organizer with Florida Organic Growers.“The hardest part of these programs is letting people know it exists,” Franz said.Her organization targeted markets in urban areas deemed “food deserts” near transportation lines.Linda Wilson, manager of the Venice market, and Lee Perron, the Englewood market manager, worked together to bring the incentive program to the area.“Our hearts are in it for our communities,” Wilson said. “We share that same type of vision. We both try to go above and beyond what most managers do.”The managers are developing personal touches to teach customers about food options, getting volunteers to leadmarket tours, handing out recipe cards, helping people learn how to prepare food at home themselves and offering children’s programs.Robert Kluson, Ph.D., an agriculture and natural resources extension agent, leads monthly sessions at both the Venice and Englewood markets.“We’re trying to introduce people to more varieties of foods they may not be aware that we can grow in Florida,” he said.He said he learns from managers about community needs and also works with the health department about how fresh food can be part of the solution for health issues.“It’s not only bringing fresh food to people in greatest need, it increases the vitality and success of the farmers markets way beyond SNAP recipients buying there,” Kluson said.He said the new program rewards vendors with an increased customer base.“I love helping out the community and giving back,” said Dustin Thibodeau, of Fort Myers, who operates Dusty’s Produce at the Venice market. “They’re supporting us as local businesses.”Thibodeau, 20, has been selling produce since he was a high school sophomore and recently started his own business. He specializes in sustainable products grown with less pesticides and chemicals; he features Florida-grown produce during the season and brings in items from Georgia and the Carolinas in the summer months.The new program helps everyone all around, he said, emphasizing that consuming high-quality, fresh food helps overall health.Everyone is pulling together, Kluson said, including churches, governments, food banks, the health department, farmers and the transit system.“This is just the right thing to do,” he said.Funding is in place to keep the program going for three to five years, Franz said, giving time to create behavior change.The one-to-one match — thanks to funding by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Specialty Crop Block Grant — is an incentive to help people learn the benefits of buying fresh vs. processed food.“The farmers market is truly a nutritious and healthy alternative,” Perron said.

Access Bucks
Snap Benefits