Tampa Bay Farmers Markets Re-Open For Fall, Winter Seasons

With autumn upon us, farmers markets across the Tampa Bay region are readying to share the harvest. It seems nearly every municipality has at least one. A few are new, and a few have made some changes. Here's a thumbnail sketch:

Realize Bradenton hosts a farmers market downtown on Old Main Street between Manatee Avenue and 4th Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday from October to May.

"We have built a community of vendors, residents, businesses, and most importantly, a community of dogs," says Johnette Isham, Realize Bradenton's executive director. "We have live music every Saturday. The first Saturday features a chef demo, the second raffles and prizes, on the third Saturday we join with Mainly Arts, showcasing artists and craftspeople and featuring art from a Manatee County elementary school. On the last Saturday of the month we do kids' activities."

Isham says the market has generated foot traffic and revenue for Bradenton businesses since it opened a little over a year ago. "Ninety thousand people came downtown last year," she says. half of them for the farmers market. Next year 135,000 are predicted, due to more events we've planned. That equals projected consumer spending of $3.1 million for 2010-11."

Wesley Chapel is opening a new market at the The Shops at Wiregrass at the intersection of Bruce B. Downs and State Road 56 the first Saturday of every month starting in November.

According to Tiffany Ferrecchia of Tampa Downtown Market, the Winegrass market will feature produce, plants and eco-friendly arts and crafts as well as products featured at existing Wiregrass stores and restaurants.

Lizzy Lenk is a vendor who sells her Bag It Conscience products at several Tampa Bay markets. "I like going to the markets because it gives me an opportunity to talk to people and encourage them to do simple changes that can go a long way toward improving and changing the environment for the better," she says. "I find it a wonderful, creative, meaningful and fun way to earn my living. People absolutely love coming out. It gives them an opportunity to meet with friends and be outdoors. They can buy handmade, home-cooked or locally grown products. Many love not buying from the big corporations but supporting local crafters. We are fortunate that we have lots of these kinds of markets happening almost every day of the week. It brings life to the streets."

Other area markets include St. Petersburg's mammoth Saturday Morning Market;  Gulfport's Tuesday Morning Market; Clearwater's Open Air marketDunedin's farmers market; Largo's Heritage Village and downtown markets, Tampa's downtown market, Ybor Market and Seminole Heights market; Parksdale Farm Market in Plant City; Brooksville's downtown market, Hernando Beach's Open Market; and Lakeland's Farmer's Curb Market and Farmer's and Flea Market.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Johnette Isham, Realize Bradenton; Lizzy Lenk, Bag It; Tiffany A. Ferrecchia, Tampa Downtown Market
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