The Boca Grande Farmers Market, the first known ever of its kind on Gasparilla Island in Southwest Florida, held its Grand Opening yesterday with a strong showing and positive community support. A brief ribbon cutting ceremony was held with the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce and the Boca Beacon newspaper in attendance. Over 40 vendors specializing in local Florida fresh foods, fruits, and vegetables were set up from 9:30a – 1:30p. Featured specialties included handcrafted, Florida-made art from local artisans, a wide selection of specialty nursery items such as bonsai trees, elegant orchids, and exotic stem flowers, and gourmet cuisine imported from Italy.
In addition to on-site freshly made guacamole were locally baked artisan breads, specialty pickles, and a wide array of imported and domestic cheeses. Most in attendance were surprised at the volume of produce made available, and expressed an interest in additional USDA Certified Organic selections. Many asked educated and intelligent questions about the sourcing of food, the farmers’ growing methods, and the availability of their favorite items. Boca Grande enjoys a large population of independent gardeners and edible lawn residents who are well-educated about Florida native and invasive species and Florida’s unique growing seasons for harvest.
Grand Opening Day for the inaugural open-air farmers market was hot and humid. Many people came out to the market in their golf carts and with family and pets in tow. Musician Leslie DaCosta, Jr. provided soulful background music by saxophone with a Ray Charles’ Georgia and an African-American spiritual Amen, Amen. Many islanders commented on how excited they were to have a much needed community gathering event on a weekly basis. Beachgoers added input about the benefit of having the convenience of food brought to the remote barrier island, which is also a food desert. Tourists commented about how having a farmers market in the future would continue to enhance their stay.
Founder Shauna Lee Lange said, “We’re so thankful to all the support we’ve received within Lee County. Boca Grande is a very unique and beautiful coastal island with a resident and visitor population that truly cares about conservation, preservation, sustainability, and health for whole living.” Lange is originally from Rhode Island and has spent many years living and working in coastal communities. She is also an advocate of farm to table eating and Florida fresh foods. “We truly seek a social market where there is a place for everyone. We look forward to a living, breathing, growing and exciting entity for all.”
The Boca Grande Farmers Market runs weekly on Fridays from Oct 3, 2014 – April 24, 2015 at 305 Wheeler Road Ball Field on Boca Grande, FL from 9:30a – 1:30p. Market Management may be reached at 941.875.5190.