It’s amazing to reflect and look back on what a month can mean to a brand new farmers market and the community it serves. Having just completed our ninth week on Gasparilla Island (Boca Grande) Florida, our smallish remote barrier island open-air marketplace is absolutely full of life and constant change.
The Boca Grande Farmers Market began November by attending the Florida Agricultural Exposition, a day-long series of workshops, seminars, exhibitor halls, and field trips to further understand Florida’s agricultural base. With this new information, we promoted each day via social media by covering products that can be found at market, reasons to support a farmers market (especially in a food desert), and the health benefits and fun found in the products, people and personalities within the market.
Mid month, area market managers from Venice Farmers Market, Phillippi Farmers Market, and Englewood Farmers Market all made the trek out to our coastal island resort to show their support and to develop new pathways for farmers market managers in Southwest Florida to share information and best practices in 2015.
Area small businesses, newspapers, and websites/blogs began to pick up on our Friday fun by including the farmers market as a must see destination while visiting the island. We even had a pop-up hula hoop performance artist show off some finer swirling moves to the tunes of our weekly musicians. Average weekly attendance is roughly 500 people who are arriving to market by bike, buggy, boat, and boot.
In celebrating Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, our new market was so pleased to see residents and visiting family come out to the ball field to enjoy a true person-to-person social event on the green. So many people told us how pleased they were and how excited they are to embrace the market. So many more asked us to hold on until January when they promise we won’t even be able to move for the crowds.
Our vendor family is starting not only to gel as a unit, but also to make community contacts and inroads in bringing some of the excellent, top-shelf food and art products to brick and mortars on island. In this effort, the market manager toured several area food-centric distributors, to include Catania Vineyards & Winery of Englewood. We also shared some green websites with the public and took time to explore more educational outreach opportunities for the future.
In addition to attending the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce Business Meeting where we connected with several long-term leaders of our community, we welcomed to market new, unique and interesting vendors not found in other area markets. With an eye to growing our agritourism base, we are still stabilizing our vendors to find those with the right products and right fit. Frustratingly, one of our challenges has been in drawing enough committed interest from area organic farmers. Distance, availability, and seasonal obligations and/or growing season are three of the most often heard obstacles; ones we are working to overcome.
Looking ahead to December, we will continue to add new vendors with an island heart, concentrating most on a range of options within produce. We will be working and thinking about ways to encourage a wider range of options with more exclusive and exotic fruits and vegetables. We will also continue our push for ethnic foods and currently are in search of a paella and pizza vendor. Our outreach to local food collaboratives, food hubs, and food businesses never ceases.
More importantly, we will be working to make more meaningful contacts with the farmers market guests, learning names and understanding what’s important to you! We’ll be celebrating with faith, joy, peace and love for the December season, and we wish each and every one of you the sparkling gift of passing over phosphorous aqua green waters whenever you arrive to or depart from beautiful Boca Grande.
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 (Gasparilla Island), FL from 9:30a – 1:30p. Market Management may be reached at 941.875.5190.