By STEVE REILLY, Staff Writer, The Englewood Sun
ENGLEWOOD — Even Lee Perron never imagined the Englewood Farmers Market would be as successful as it is.
“I’ve been really busy,” Perron said Friday. Not surprising.
The Englewood market will be back 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning Oct. 3 and every Thursday after that until May on the 300 block of West Dearborn Street at the Pioneer Plaza.
In 2011, Perron imagined it to become a small community market on West Dearborn Street with local growers and vendors selling fresh produce and other commodities. According to Sun reports, in November 2011, the opening day of the Englewood Farmer’s Market saw 17vendors, 21 booths and attracted 1,500 people.
Now, Perron, the manager of the nonprofit market, said more than 80 vendors are on a waiting list and the market attracted 8,000 or more people regularly last year. The Englewood Farmers Market now is also attracting the interest of growers from Florida’s East Coast and elsewhere in the state, something Perron never expected.
This year, the market will see 56 vendors with four new “rock stars” — a French baker, cut flower and professional floral arranger, fresh pasta maker and an “old country” Greek yogurt maker, Perron said.
The success of the Englewood Farmers Market even impressed Atlanta Braves representatives who asked Perron to start up and manage a similar nonprofit market. The seasonal West Villages Market will operate Wednesdays from October through March, at the Atlanta Braves Spring Training Facility, 18800 S. West Villages Parkway.
Many of the same vendors intend to sell their wares at both the West Villages and Englewood markets. Perron does not see the two markets competing with each other, but rather, they will complement each other. He also manages the nonprofit farmers market Saturday mornings at the Venice City Hall.
Citing the growth in West Villages and North Port that the Villages Farmers Market could serve, Perron suggested the Englewood market shouldn’tlose customers nor vendors, but will level out to what can be handled and provide positive experiences for both customers and vendors.
The success of the Englewood Farmers Market can be measured by how it helps others.
As a nonprofit under the tax-exempt status of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, the Englewood Farmers Market contributed more than $84,000 to local charities and other nonprofits from 2011 to 2018. Beneficiaries include the food banks at St. David’s Jubilee Center and Englewood Helping Hand, The Englewood Community Care Clinic, New Paradigm, Friends of Sarasota County Parks and Englewood Elementary School. Email: Steve.Reilly@yoursun.com
County could require subtracting arts vendors, adding more food
By STEVE REILLY – STAFF WRITER
ENGLEWOOD — Sarasota County is seeking a new balance for Englewood’s farmers markets.
County commissioners will consider changing a county ordinance that will limit the number of arts and crafts, jewelry, health and health services, and other non-food vendors to only 25 percent of the total number of vendors. The discussion is set for Nov. 6.
If the ordinance is changed, 75 percent of the remaining vendors must sell vegetables, honey and cheeses, spices, coffees or any other food product, including artisan and prepared foods. The county ordinance now allows a 50-50 split to the products sold at farmers markets.
Farmers markets are held along West Dearborn Street on Thursdays from October to May.
The nonprofit Englewood Farmer’s Market was the first in Englewood, opening eight years ago at the Pioneer Plaza on the 300 block of West Dearborn. Joyce Colmar opened her for-profit Dearborn Street Market across the street. Since then other smaller markets have been sprouting up along and around West Dearborn.
Englewood’s Community Redevelopment Agency staff has been meeting with market managers in an ongoing discussion to devise a reasonable formula and methodology for determining enforcement. The call for the modification of the farmers markets, CRA manager Debbie Marks said, came from various brickand- mortar Dearborn merchants who felt that the arts and other non-produce vendors undermined their businesses last year.
To define the ratio of vendors at the markets, the managers and CRA discussed Tuesday how a 10-by-10-foot space could equate to one unit of vendor’s space.
“I have vendors who are paying for five booths,” Colmar said.
Will that affect the ratio of food to non-food vendors?
And how will county code enforcement determine who is or isn’t in compliance, Englewood Farmer’s Market manager Lee Perron asked.
“It’s a math thing.
Zeros and ones. Either it is or isn’t (in compliance),” Perron said.
Marks suggested a county official could visit a particular market and determine whether the market is meeting the guidelines at the outset of the season. Reporting any subsequent changes would be the responsibility of the managers, she said.
“We need to support our locals first and foremost,” DonnaMarie Lee said.
Lee manages a small farmers market Thursdays, but she also is co-owner of Bobarino’s Pizzeria on Magnolia Avenue at West Dearborn.
“We need to focus on our town first, community first,” she said.
“Then we can bring in the extras.”
SUN PHOTOS BY STEVE REILLY
By STEVE REILLY – STAFF WRITER
ENGLEWOOD — Autumn Glick was impressed with “the magnitude of the various vendors” at the farmer’s markets on West Dearborn Street Thursday.
“And it’s a nice crowd,” said Glick, who served coffee for the Cape Coralbased coffee roaster Jimmy’s Java which travels to various farmer’s markets. Thursday was Jimmy Java’s first day in Englewood, the largest and most diverse of the farmer’s markets they’ve attended.
Expect Jimmy Java to be back next Thursday, Glick said.
The nonprofit Englewood Farmer’s Market Manager Lee Perron suspected Thursday morning the market’s opening day may have been its biggest. He was right. More than 3,200 people strolled through the market Thursday, a record for an opening day, he said.
The nonprofit market was the first in Englewood and opened eight years ago at the Pioneer Plaza on the 300 block of West Dearborn. Since then, it led to other similar markets to spring up around it, including Joyce Colmar’s for-profit Dearborn Street Market across the street from the nonprofit market.
Prior to the opening day for the farmer’s market, which is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday, Perron said he heard “a buzz around town” looking forward to its reopening. The market is also filled to capacity with 58 vendors — and that doesn’t count the numerous vendors at Colmar’s or the other smaller markets.
Chef Ef Martinez, who owned several restaurants in New York City before moving to Venice, prepared paella at the farmer’s market and sold “Cordon Oro, all-purpose seasoning.” It’s his third year at the market. Like Perron, Martinez thought the market saw a goodsized opening crowd Thursday.
Les Bernstein, a Olde Englewood Village Association board member, said the farmer’s markets attracted a “good crowd.” He also noticed new vendors selling their wares on Dearborn Thursday.
Bernstein owns the brick-and-mortar Rehab on Dearborn, vintage and collectibles shop just west of the farmer’s market. He could not say whether all the merchants benefit from the farmer’s markets, but he did know the markets bring additional foot traffic up and down West Dearborn.
photos by Steve Reilly
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.
SUN PHOTOS BY DEBBIE FLESSNER
Providing classic rock musical accompaniment for my taste-testing was the talented Andre’ Lemiuex.
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
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.
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.
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.
Emily Troup of Venus Veggies. [PHOTOS BY VANESSA CACERES]
Rich Olson of Stamper Cheese.
John Weil of Weil Honey.
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
OTHER MARKETS PARTICIPATE IN SNAP
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.
Shoppers stroll through the Englewood Farmers Market on Thursday. In the background, just across Dearborn Ave., is the upstart Dearborn Market.
STAFF PHOTO / MIKE LANG
ENGLEWOOD – Those struggling to pay bills and keep food in their pantries will soon have a new way to buy foods fresh from the farm.
The Englewood Farmers Market will become the first in Sarasota County to accept benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
Not only will SNAP recipients be able buy Florida-grown produce or vegetables, a state grant would allow them to double the value of their SNAP dollars.
Lee Perron, director of the market, said the Englewood market has spent months working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set up the program, order a mobile SNAP terminal and train vendors on what items beneficiaries can purchase.
He hopes to have a test run with the SNAP program in early May and for it to be fully operational by the time the market reopens in October after its annual summer hiatus.
“Once we go through all that and know the entire platform is working from A to Z, then we’ll officially kick things off,” Perron said. “We want this to be an extremely easy thing for them to do and to see the benefit of buying fresh, nutritious food from the farmers market.”
The announcement comes at a time when the public has turned its attention to hunger in Sarasota County, especially among children.
A report commissioned by All Faiths Food Bank and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation found that nearly one in four children in Sarasota County are “food insecure,” meaning they are unsure about the source and quality of his or her next meal.
Additionally, more than half the students who attend Sarasota County Schools receive government-subsidized free or reduced-price lunches.
Rachelle Lawrence, a South Venice resident who has children ages 3 and 7, said even when money is tight, she always tries to buy fresh food for her children.
“I always try to get healthier foods,” Lawrence said. “If we have to go without one thing to get something healthy we will.”
She said she was thrilled the Englewood Farmers Market would begin accepting SNAP benefits.
SNAP dollars can only be used to buy foods for a household, such as breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; dairy products; and meats, fish and poultry.
The benefits can also be used to buy seeds and plants.
They cannot be used for items such as alcohol, hot foods, foods that can be eaten in a store or household supplies.
With the mobile terminal, beneficiaries can swipe their SNAP cards, similar to a debit card.
In turn, market organizers will give each SNAP recipient several plastic, colored tokens to be used like cash at qualified vendors.
Tokens used to purchase produce and vegetables grown in Florida will have a special color and designation. In 2013, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services awarded a group called Florida Organic Growers a Specialty Crop Block Grant.
The grant allows SNAP recipients who use their benefits to purchase Florida-grown fruits and vegetables to double the value of the money they are spending.
For example, if a family buys $20 of Florida-grown fruits and vegetables with their SNAP benefits, they will actually get $40 worth.
Perron said after each market, qualified vendors will turn in the tokens they received and will be reimbursed by the market before the next week’s gathering.
He added that the vendors he has talked with seem eager to begin using the new form of payment.
“I’ve already started talking with produce vendors, they’re all incredibly excited about it, especially the six Florida growers,” Perron said. “They see the benefit of SNAP in the community and doubling those dollars to feed more people. They want to be able to do this.”
|Kim Dart points out a fresh fruit tray to her daughter, Amanda Dart, at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market, circa 2007 / E. SKYLAR LITHERLAND|
The Fresh Access Bucks program sure sounds like a win-win. It allows recipients of federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars to double the value of their benefits by purchasing Florida-grown organic produce at local farmers’ markets. Win one: for the low-income individuals who rely on SNAP to feed their families. Win two: for farmers who suddenly gain access to a whole new customer base. And it’s coming soon to Sarasota County, with at least two local farmers’ markets working to set up the infrastructure needed to participate.
ENGLEWOOD — The Englewood Farmers Market was alive and buzzing with the rhythm of swelling crowds moving through stands of colorful produce and fresh-baked goods. Kim Douglas’ class of 18 second- graders from Englewood Elementary School added to the mix when they met up with market manager Lee Perron for a guided tour of the market. Over the past weeks, each of the five EES second-grade classes has had the chance to take a walking field trip to the market on Dearborn Street. Douglas’ class took its turn on Feb. 20 and other groups have followed in its footsteps. “They get to see all the produce and farm products outside of a grocery story,” Perron said. “It was eye-opening. A lot of them had not seen that before.” Leading the class through the market, Perron stopped at several vendors’ booths for a quick lesson and to sample an array of goodies. Eager to try the tiny green leaves, they first munched on broccoli sprouts from Simply Organics. John Weil, from Weil Farms, held the children’s attention with an animated lesson about raw honey. He accepted a wide range of guesses before revealing that a honey bee makes about a quarter teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. Moving through the market with a new appreciation for hardworking honey bees, the group visited the Dufour Family Farms stand known as The Herb Guys. Students clapped for Vaughn Dufour who previously donated flats of herbs and vegetables to plant in the schoolyard gardens. During the school year, students tend to the gardens weekly and have harvested and eaten food grown from Dufour’s seedlings. Every hand in the class went out as Jacob Rhoads from Rhoads Produce handed out apples. The employees at Jonesez BBQ generously served free barbecue sandwiches to the entire class. After a short break in the shade, the second- grade class listened to a science lesson about erupting corn kernels as they patiently waited for a salty sweet sample of kettle corn. Students even got to bring home a sample treat for their dog or cat courtesy of Wood ‘n Purr gourmet pet treats. With their tummies full, the class made its way out of the market and back down the sidewalk toward school. “My favorite part was the orange juice,” second-grader Nicole Thomas said reflecting on a variety of tasty morsels she sampled that morning.
Olivia Roberts tries some broccoli sprouts at the Englewood Farmers Market as her second-grade class from Englewood Elementary School tours the market last week. Market manager Lee Perron has been providing tours for the last two weeks, and will continue into March.
Englewood Elementary School second-grade teacher Kim Douglas, left, smiles as her class answers questions on a tour of the Englewood Farmers Market last week. EES students will continue touring the market through March.
Emily Troup explains to Karen Dowd’s second-graders about her organic farm and the foods they produce.
John Weil, a bee keeper for more than 30 years, takes a question from second-grader Gabe Todaro, regarding how long it takes for bees to create a honeycomb.
Karen Dowd’s second-grade class at Englewood Elementary School gets prepared to walk to the Englewood Farmers Market Thursday. The special field trip to the market gave kids the opportunity to learn about various foods and meet several of the people who work at the market.
Emily Troup explains to Karen Dowd’s second-graders about her organic farm and the foods they produce.
Lilly Delfino admires a couple of sunflowers at the Englewood Farmers Market›on Thursday. Delfino and her classmates had a special field trip from Englewood Elementary to the farmers market to learn about the market and the various foods and products that can be purchased.
It’s strawberry time in Florida so make plans to participate in the first annual Strawberry Tasting Event at the Englewood Farmers Market! The tasting event is free of charge. Renowned agricultural expert Dr. Robert A. Kluson, Ph.D. from the University of Florida Extension in Sarasota County will be conducting locally grown strawberry tastings at the Englewood Farmers Market on January 30th, 2014 beginning at 9:30 AM. The market is located in the 300 block of historic W. Dearborn Street in Englewood.
These activities will include surveys of customer preferences of different varieties from the UF/IFAS Strawberry Breeding Program, Honeyside Farms in Sarasota County and the O’Brian Family Farm in Manatee County. The tasting and customer surveys will provide valuable input to these UF/IFAS fruit breeding programs. Dr. Kluson stated “I really look forward to bringing these activities to the Englewood Farmers Market as the Extension’s way of increasing the public’s awareness of Florida’s fruit industry and supporting our local farmers.”
WORDS BY ABBY WEINGARTEN
PHOTOS BY ANGELA JENKINS
Six visionaries were not sure what they were getting into when they pioneered the Englewood Farmers’ Market in November 2011. Would a Southwest Florida city of only about 15,000 people generate enough traffic to keep vendors profiting?
By the end of the market’s first season, Lee Perron and his team of founding members (Mike Hutchinson, Marie LaForge, Don Musilli, Jennifer Perry, and Ricardo Ruggiero) were dumbfounded.
What started with 17 vendors, 21 booths, and 1,500 daily shoppers in the fall had grown to 43 vendors, 50 booths, and 4,000 attendees by February. Now, the market’s organizers have a jam-packed waiting list, as well as a nod from last year’s Natural Awakenings magazine, to their credit.
The magazine’s readers’ poll rated the market the best in Florida, which boldly put the event on the state’s map and carved out Englewood as an economic driver for Sarasota County.
That demand pushed Perron and his cohorts to extend the duration of the market, bumping it up to October 1 and stretching it through the end of April. Located in historic downtown Englewood on Dearborn Street in the Olde Englewood Village, the market is held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday, except for Thanksgiving Day.
Peddlers flock in from Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte counties, as well as from Port St. Lucie, Jensen Beach, and Miami. As of the most recent tally, there are 49 vendors in the lineup and 60 booths. In other words, the market is at full capacity and on the verge of overflowing.
“People come back for the fresh produce and baked goods. We have a certified organic farmer from Venus, Florida, called Venus Veggies, which is hugely popular because they pick produce from their farm on Wednesday and have it at the farmers’ market on Thursday,” Perron says. “We have French, Italian, and German bakers, and people who make gourmet cupcakes, biscotti, gluten-free pastries, and bagels. We have hummus, pickles, fudge, plants, bonsai trees, orchids, and fresh herbs. It’s a very unique and diverse shopping experience.”
The market is a success in its own right, but it has also invaluably transformed the image of Englewood as a city. “Last year, we had 70,000 people who came into our market (18,000 to 20,000 of them were new to the downtown area). Those people spent $1.4 million on the vendors in the very first season,” Perron says. “The market has made Englewood a focal point for people to gather, and the whole city is being revitalized because of it.” To market, everyone, to heed the hype.
Please check out the Edible Sarasota Magazine
Eve Moraghan’s line dance classes staged an Irish flash mob at the Englewood Farmers Market last Thrusday to the delight of the crowd. They danced to the tune of “Irish Stew” and other favorites, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Many people joined in. “The market was packed”, said photographer Paula Kaye. “Lots of families and spring breakers.” Eve teaches line dancing Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the American Legion in Rotonda. For more information call 941-697-8733.