boca grande farmers market expands personal services

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The pleasure and simplicity of e-commerce has now come to local food. Instead of traveling to Thursday’s Englewood farmers markets, a new Boca Grande island service will bring the experience right to your door! The newly expanded Boca Grande Virtual Farmers Market announced in mid-July, that they will add Thursday door-to-door delivery runs from the Englewood Farmers Market (and Dearborn Street markets) during the upcoming 2016/2017 season.

The formerly successful Boca Grande Farmers Market, in addition to establishing a new 24/7 online virtual market, adding a door-to-door personal delivery service known as Gophers, and developing other enhanced luxury personal services, will continue to develop unique food culture on island with whole food centered events and activities.  Call today 941.875.5190.

Many island residents rely on the availability of food and craft items that are only available at larger and more established Englewood Thursday markets, yet enjoy the convenience and community of the Boca Grande Friday open-air market.  The best of both worlds would be not to have to leave the island to get hand-crafted gifts, crafts, art, organics, or other specialty foods and goods.

Farmer’s markets are an efficient and often reasonably priced way to obtain fresh, local food. But for a variety of reasons, many people never make it. Maybe their work schedule doesn’t align with the farmer’s market days. Or maybe they are ill and can’t make the trek. Or maybe their social calendars are just full, or guests are arriving shortly.  Whatever the reason, the island’s new Gophers: Groceries, Goods and Personal Services will let people select, buy, and order directly from a personal shopper who will personally choose ONLY the best available goods with a critically aesthetic and value-based eye.

Gophers is the brainchild of Shauna Lee Lange as a newly-formed division of the island’s Friday physical market, Boca Grande Farmers Market. The market founder has a strong background in operational logistics and large-scale systems as well as arts and events.  She was inspired by time spent working on a friend’s family farm which was in the process of figuring out how to expand food availability, food quality, and food security to customers. “It was clear even then, that some sort of personal, high-quality direct customer specialty service would help that whole process,” she says.

In 2014, Lange embarked on a mission to help establish a local food system for fresh produce, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and other on the remote barrier island and garden paradise of Boca Grande. Boca Grande Farmers Market, as a community cornucopia, was the result.  Following consistent requests for more and better organics, which are difficult to get to the island due to various constraints facing the market, Lange worked to expand her reach over the Summer of 2016.

She first determined that in addition to any physical market on island, a virtual online market was needed to provide greater response and additional space for food businesses (including bakers, ranchers, farmers, butchers, pop-up restaurants, food trucks, AND CRAFTERS & ARTISTS) to sell their wares, and for consumers to have access to everything available in their area.

Then, she worked to add the convenience of having a friendly and trusted someone deliver all these items in a way that would connect to the island community.  That service known as Gophers, will be limited to the immediate Englewood, Florida area spanning Charlotte & Sarasota counties in the southwest region.  Lange said,

Our region of Florida is primarily a tourist and snow bird resort enclave.  People are in transit, on limited timeframes, and with very busy schedules.  Time is our most precious commodity and the residents and visitors to Boca Grande and the greater Englewood area want to make the most of every sun-filled second.  And our year-long residents, many in need of supportive services for a variety of reasons, are also looking for goods availability with discerning taste.  Expanding our physical farmers market to a virtual 24/7 virtual online concierge service, adding Gophers as the delivery vehicle, and offering to pickup from the Thursday Englewood Farmers Market, can only make our offerings stronger and more intrinsic to our way of life in tropical paradise.  We all want good quality food, but good quality food is work and is often not convenient.  In an effort to enhance island life, we’re going to alleviate your need to ever have to think about it again.

In 2015, the island’s Friday physical market had a total of 52 vendors lined up to participate until County Commissioners imposed the application of a vague definition of “agriculturally related” onto all vendors.  For those participating on the field, rendering the market only available to offer food and plant-based natural foods and goods, was a major blow.  It was then that Lange knew that to effectively combat the difficulties of being in a food desert, she either had to single-handedly fight city hall, change the location of the market on an island with little suitably available land space, or offer expanded and enhanced services.

By incorporating delivery services to and from Thursday’s Englewood Farmers Market, Lange will be able to include a lot of small artisan businesses offering things like naturally-sweetened popsicles, sourdough bread baked in wood-fired brick ovens, and pies made with local, organic ingredients.  Additionally, she’ll be able to operate as a personal guide for food and goods and items to enrich the market experience for those with specific needs.  Most importantly, there will also be plenty of produce (and especially USDA certified organics) for sale from vendors who are reluctant to pay the Gasparilla Island bridge fee, or from vendors who were economically hurt by last-minute weather cancellations during the storms of 2015.

Fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetables ARE available from quality, trusted farmers who make the Thursday trek to Englewood’s various markets – established and committed farmers like Joshua Citrus, Venus Veggies, and Aloe Organics. Because Lange has working relationships with these farmers, knows their operations, and understands their values, she will also have up-to-date knowledge about who is facing what shortages, overages, and harvesting successes.

The addition of delivery runs via the Gopher service to Englewood’s markets on Thursday will also allow the physical and virtual Boca Grande Farmers Markets to participate in sustainable economy by being able to offer community supported agriculture, as well as gourmet culinary delights.

Gophers will charge a small transaction fee from each sale, but Lange stresses that prices for items are comparable to what shoppers might find in real-world farmer’s markets and stores. Some vendors will sell exclusively through Gophers and the newly designed virtual market. And in the case of meat, cheese, and fish, prices are cheaper than buying similar products in the area big box stores.

Independent ranches and farmers that want to sell direct to outside of the industrial food systems are producing some of the best items out there—grassfed, pasture-raised, humanely raised, chemical free. Lange says that her models will differ a bit from what is commercially available elsewhere, she will not rely on electronic shopping carts.  She said the telephone (voice or text) is the simplest, most direct, most specific means of exchanging information in a timely manner.  She will take pre-orders by phone up to Wednesday night at midnight, and emergency orders only on Thursdays.

In addition to these 2016 enhancements, Boca Grande Virtual Farmers Market also has planned an events calendar, recipes, workshops, and upcoming food-inspired activities to further grow themes like edible landscapes, agritecture, and agritourism. “We want to help people be more successful local eaters in addition to savvy, local shoppers,” says Lange.  Until season hits, she is already busy figuring out how best to scale, how to deliver meaningful world-class customer service, and how to meet our family’s needs, and how to build an island institution.

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