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