The Englewood Farmers Market was originally founded by: Marie Laforge, Ricardo Ruggiero, Mike Hutchinson and Lee Perron in the Fall of 2011, and it officially open its doors to the public on November 3, 2011.
A BRIEF HISTORY:
The Englewood Farmers Market was the brainchild of Marie Laforge in 2010. She had been wondering why we didn't have one in Englewood. In early 2011, along with Ricardo Ruggiero and Mike Hutchinson, they set out to find quality vendors from successful farmers market in the area. Using the success Mango Bistro on Dearborn Street as leverage to convince potential vendors that this was a serious endeavor, they were able gather a sufficient number of good quality vendors to commit to participating in the new market in Englewood. Later, in the early Summer of 2011, Lee Perron, learning about the idea, volunteered his help in creating the new market.
Later in the summer of 2011, dining at Marie Laforge and Ricardo Ruggiero’s home with Lee Perron and Mike Hutchinson, the conversation turned to how we could get this market started and how each of us could contribute to the new market once it did start. Lee Perron, was to become the manager of the market, Mike Hutchinson the treasurer, Marie Laforge marketing and Ricardo Ruggiero information and technology. In a matter of weeks, the dialogue evolved quickly to a plan to begin a farmers market in Englewood, and in a short period of time, the Englewood Farmers Market (EFM) was born.
Concurrent to these discussions of between the members of the newly formed market committee of the Englewood Farmers Market (EFM), Marie and Ricardo were trying to find a non-profit organization to partner with the EFM. They approached OEVA as the local non-profit organization to sponsor the market, but the organization was not interested at the time. Debbie Marks (CRA Director), who was present at the afore mentioned OEVA meeting, suggested the EFM Board contacted Don Musilli, who at the was the president of a non-profit organization called the EC4S. The EC4S became the first non-profit organization to partner with the newly formed Englewood Farmers Market.
Meetings took place, the Pioneer Plaza location was secured, the EFM Board members fanned out to local markets to sign up vendors, a site plan was laid out, an operations team was established, and Sarasota County approved our permit to begin. We had an entire budget of only $1,000.00 to get started.
Then on November 3, 2011. Marie and Ricardo, Mike Hutchinson, Lee Perron, and Don Musilli launched the first day the Englewood Farmers Market. The opening day was nerve wracking, as the EFM board had no idea if anyone would come to shop with our modest size market of seventeen vendors. However, 1,500 showed up to share the love that very first day and the vendors were surprised at the level of support that came from the Englewood community on day one. Ninety days later, we had 30 vendors and 3,000 per week in attendance. We ended our first season with 43 vendors and a total attendance of 70,000. And we made our first donations back to the community.
In 2013, the FOSCP became the non-profit organization for the Englewood Farmers Market, as the EC4S could no longer fulfill that role.
The Englewood Farmers Market completed ten successful seasons, ending its operations with 60 vendors and over 185,000 in attendance. During the high season, the EFM experienced over visitors 8,000 per week shopping at the market. An economic impact study performed by Dr. Kluson with the University of Florida concluded that the market was a four million dollar plus financial engine that was creating a renaissance in historic downtown Englewood by its eighth season.
As the market had grown, so did the EFM commitment as a non-profit to donate back to other organizations that contribute to improving the quality of life for our community. Helping Hand and St. David’s food banks, the Englewood Community Care Clinic, New Paradigm, Englewood Elementary School, and local parks are all our giving partners. In the eighth season the EFM crossed an important milestone of passing the $100,000 mark in donations.
Another pillar of the EFM mission was to address food insecurity in our community. In 2014, the EFM was approved as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retail location by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to accept what has been known in the past as food stamps. The EFM was also fortunate to receive grant funds from Florida farmers that allow us to double the dollars issued to SNAP participants to allow them greater purchasing power for farm fresh fruits and vegetables. This is known as the Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) program. From inception thru the eighth season, the EFM had distributed over $45,000 in matching dollars to participants in the Englewood community. Check more of the history of the Englewood Farmers Market, by visiting other areas of this website (www.englewoodfarmersmarket.org).
Lee Perron served as market manager for ten consecutive seasons. His leadership, organization and thoroughness were key to the success of the EFM. He was instrumental in the implementation of the SNAP, FAB programs into the market. His contribution to the EFM was a vital piece of the market success.
All founding members of the EFM, served on the Board till 2021 when it was dissolved.
In the Fall of 2021, learning that the original EFM Board would no longer be organizing the Englewood Farmers Market, the Rotary Club of Englewood Sunset decided to take over that role.