Local Farmer’s Markets Open For Season

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The weather may have been a little unseasonably warm for November, but on Tuesday morning that didn’t stop folks from flocking to the opening day of the Santini Sunrise Farmer’s Market – a south island staple during the season where shoppers can load up on everything from delicate handmade jewelry to homemade bread. Not just for fresh fruits and veggies anymore, area farmer’s markets are actually great places to shop for Christmas and birthday gifts, home décor, art and much more. Fortunately for those of us on Fort Myers Beach, there are five such markets all within a short driving (for some, walking) distance from our emerald shores.

Santini Sunrise Farmers Market
Tuesdays

The Santini Market opened Tuesday, November 4th and will be open every Tuesday from 9am-1pm – rain or shine – until May 1st.

There has been a lot of positive buzz about this market – which is new and improved for this year. Event Coordinator, Bonnie Roberts, told us, “An exciting change for the Santini Sunrise Farmer’s Market this year is we’ve gone “all fresh,” homegrown, and handmade. Our jewelry makers will be making and customizing their pieces on site, Honey from the Hood will be doing hourly demos on harvesting honey, Donna Elias, watercolor artist and Mara Balodis canvas artist will be painting on site, Connie Eugenio will be engraving rings and bracelets ‘to go’. You will see taffy being made by Bradley Taffy, Gemini Jelly brings her own homemade jellies, and Peaches Provisions sells homemade Pickles and Olives. Other items for sale will include Moringa Tree Oils, fresh seasonings, herbal balms, local handmade baskets, pottery, beach photography, carved wood art, hemp bamboo clothing, homemade candles, air plants, natural pet treats, handmade soaps, and so much more.”

New vendors are welcome to participate in the market. Contact Bonnie at
239-443-8810 or e-mail her at bgrsgs@gmail.com to obtain a copy of the regulations and register for the market.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Farmer’s Market
Fridays

The Town’s farmer’s market – for years held under the Matanzas Pass Bridge – has moved to a new location for the 2015/2016 season – it’s 14th year. Held every Friday through April from 7:30am to 11:30am, the Town’s market was one of the first of its kind in Lee County and features traditional farmer’s market items such as fresh produce grown on local farms to southern delicacies like boiled peanuts (that’s Southern caviar for y’all northern folk) and fresh seafood. It is also home to Horace Brittian, the only gladiolus grower left in Lee – a county once known for acres of gladiolus farms.

“This new location provides not only a more open and spacious area, it also allows for more foot traffic from those visiting not only the Pool, but also Bay Oaks Recreation Center, Fort Myers Beach Elementary, and the Fort Myers Beach Public Library,” said Recreation Coordinator Kyle Karczewski. “The market will also be host to vendors selling a vast assortment of fresh produce, live plants, pickles and olives, barbeque, kettle corn and organic dog treats. Fort Myers Beach Parks and Recreation is currently accepting applications and encourages Southwest Florida vendors to apply for this growing community market!”

For more information or questions regarding the market or becoming a vendor contact Kyle Karczewski at 239-765-4222 or at kyle@fortmyersbeachfl.gov.

Tanger Artisan Market
Wednesdays

Off-island, on Summerlin Road just before the bridge to Sanibel Island is the Tanger Artisan Market. Located at 20350 Summerlin Road, this unique market is open each Wednesday morning from 9am-1pm until May 1st.

Bonnie Roberts is also the organizer of this market, and she told us that the Tanger market features some of the same popular vendors from the Tuesday market plus some fresh new faces and items not found anywhere else.

“We have artists, craftsmen, fair trade produce, Honey From the Hood, handmade soaps, handcrafted jewelry, seaside ornaments, little tutu’s for little girls, Madagascar hats and lots of surprises!” she said. “We also have Carla Pine from the Salty Dog on the beach – she will be doing demonstrations on how to refurbish old furniture pieces using old-fashioned milk paints, which can also be used to paint fabrics! And if people get hungry, Jonesez BBQ is here to feed them, as is Johnsonville Brats.”

For more information, contact Bonnie at 239-443-8810 or e-mail her at bgrsgs@gmail.com.

Lakes Park Farmer’s Market
Fridays

The Lakes Park market is located off-island in the parking lot of Lakes Regional Park at 7330 Gladiolus Drive, and is open every Friday through April 9th from 9am-1pm. Part of the Lee County ‘Local Roots Farmers Markets’ – BuyLocalLee, Lakes Park is one of seven markets in the program that is county-wide.

“This market began in 2011 with only 20 vendors, and now we have over 50 vendors that sell local produce, fresh seafood, native plants, cut flowers, artisan foods, organics and much more,” said Betsy Ventura of Buy Local Lee. “We invite shoppers to stay and eat breakfast or lunch at a picnic table while listening to music in the park. We are working in cooperation with The Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation.”

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life in Fort Myers by selling and buying local fresh food. We are committed to bringing awareness to Lakes Park and providing a social atmosphere for residents and visitors to gather, interact and shop.”

BuyLocalLee was established in 2008 by Lee County residents Ventura and Jean Baer. For more information, visit buylocallee.com or email Betsy at: Betsy@BuyLocalLee.com

Health Park Farmers Market
Wednesdays

The newest market on our list, the Health Park Market is also the healthiest, as the focus is on organic and gluten-free items that people can take home. Open from 10am-2pm at the Village Shoppes at Health Park on Bass Road (corner of Bass and Summerlin) this unique market is ideally situated next to a cluster of medical centers and thriving neighborhoods that are pushing to have the market become a year-round one.

“My dad and I started this market in January of this year to offer healthy, organic, nutritious food,” said Lisa Capozio, a clinical nutritionist. “We will be a full non-profit by January of 2016, and at that time we will be able to help those on food assistance too – anyone with a SNAP card will get double value at our market.”

The Health Park market is located in the outside parking lot of the shopping plaza, and Lisa says that location is perfect for sustaining a year-round market, as it is not a seasonal area.

“We support specialty, conventional and organic growers, foodies, local businesses and our neighbors, and we want to give local producers a chance to make money year-round so they can sustain themselves,” she said.

For more information, call Lisa at (239) 470-9007.

All of the markets listed above feature local farmers, craftspeople, artists, horticulturalists and more – vital to the colorful fabric of our community. So spend a few days checking them all out – remember, every dollar spent at the farmers’ market is a dollar re-invested in the local economy!

Keri Hendry Weeg