Downtown Venice is fresher on Saturday mornings thanks to the Venice Farmers’ Market.
A fixture in downtown Venice since 1997, the market has grown in past four years from 14 vendors in 2011 to 43 in season, says manager Linda Wilson.
Wilson aims to keep 50% of the vendors food or plant related. That means that visitors truly support local food when they visit.
Take for instance Cindy Hupper of Cindy’s Produce. Amid a colorful area with tomatoes and avocadoes, Hupper explains how she visits a Plant City wholesale produce market on Fridays and picks out the freshest and, as often as possible, state-grown produce.
Then there’s Dusty’s Produce, where Dusty Thibodeau buys and then sells at the market produce grown by smaller, sustainable farms, some of which are organic. “We try and bring in as much local as possible,” says Thibodeau, who’s 21 and started to sell produce while only in high school.
For something a little more nutty-crunchy—literally— head on over to Leslie’s Granola Snack-ola, operated by Leslie Mills. Mills will offer you samples of granola like Cherries Chewbilee as well as other varieties made with tropical fruits or dark chocolate.
If you need a cup of joe, then Lizzy Nugent, owner of the Venetian Coffee Roasters, is ready to pour you some coffee. Sample their trendy cold brew—add a little syrup if you want it sweeter—or decide on a hot brew from far-flung countries like Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea, among others. Nugent and her husband used to come to the market and loved the coffee, and they later found out the business was for sale. They bought Venetian Coffee Roasters earlier this year.
“I knew that someday I’d be here,” she says.
If coffee isn’t what will tickle your taste buds, then there’s always Leah’s Lemonade or a smoothie from Island Organics. The remaining food and plant vendor mix includes eggs, dairy, seafood, kettle corn, fresh herbs, fruit trees, and more.
The passion that Wilson and the vendors at the Venice Farmers’ Market have for what they do is obvious. They transmit their love of local through what they sell and in how they support each other. Chef Ef of Al-Andaluz makes his massive paella at the market using ingredients from other vendors, for instance. “There’s a synergy here,” Nugent says. “These are carefully chosen, well-placed vendors.”
The Venice Farmers’ Market also received a grant from SNAP food assistance so users of SNAP can get extra dollars when the support Florida-grown produce vendors.
Find out more about the market at http://thevenicefarmersmarket.com/. The market is open 8 a.m. to noon in the summer and 8 a.m. to 1 pm the rest of the year.
► The Venice Farmers’ Market: Tampa Ave at W Nokomis Ave N, Venice; 941-234-6321; thevenicefarmersmarket.com