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Farmers’ Market opens for 20th year Saturday

By Staff | Oct 17, 2013

Fresh, locally grown produce will be on sale once again in the downtown area as the Farmers’ Market opens its 20th season on Saturday at the Club Square at Southeast 47th Terrace and Southeast10th Place.

And there’s going to be much more than just food and plants, but lots of entertainment and things to do for people of all ages.

Vendors from all over will be on hand to sell not only fruits and veggies, but also fresh seafood – including Pine Island clams – along with fresh bread and pastries, hydroponically grown greens, sprouts, cheeses, native plants and trees, homemade honey, jellies and jams, pet treats, made-on-site guacamole and salsa and more.

Claudia St. Onge, who has run the farmers’ market for the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce since 2002, said it’s the interesting mix of vendors that makes this particular market one of the biggest in the state.

“We will have about 100 vendors this year and we’re still trying to, put the puzzle together,” St. Onge said. “From October to December we’ll have about 4,000 visitors, but during the peak of season we get as many as 9,000.”

The Farmers’ Market was started by the Community Redevelopment Agency in 1994 and was taken over by the Chamber in 2001 with just 17 vendors in Big John’s parking lot.

Today, even though participation has grown by leaps and bounds and it has branched out, produce is still at the core of what the market does.

“The rest of the stuff we’re happy to have and we’re happy to provide it, but our anchors are the great produce,” St. Onge said.

And those vendors arrive on the scene hours before dawn setting up before they sell their wares, break down and move on to the next market.

But it’s the support they get that keeps them coming back year after year, like Christine Lindsey, owner of Sprout Queen in Bokellia, who has sold at the market for four years.

“The foot traffic that comes through and the variety of people it draws is what brings me there,” Lindsey said.

If you’re hungry for something other than what you just bought, you can indulge in fresh-made donuts, gyros, pizzas, crepes, fried chicken, and more.

The market also will offer three of South Florida’s popular musicians on two stages – Dave Lapio on the steel drum, Trop-Rock from John Friday, and Yard Dog Charlie, who blends many sounds into “Florida Swamp Music.”

On the first and third Saturday of each month, the Cape Coral Antique & Craft market will join in offering creative handmade crafts and collectibles, which St. Onge said will bring the market to capacity with 40 more vendors.

Donna Johnson and her husband, Todd, sell their artisan bread and clothes from their vendor stall, and have for five years, which has allowed them to open their own shop.

“We like this one because it’s busy and seeing all the dogs is so much fun,” Johnson said. “We live in the Cape and it was the only way to bring our bread into the Cape because we didn’t have a store here.”

On the second Saturday of the month through April, Mixers Mobile Art Studio will be at the market to help children create free art.

Put it all together and it makes Saturday mornings in the South Cape into a happening.

“It is a feel good event for the community. They love to come down and bring their pets, drink coffee and shop for produce and fresh seafood,” St. Onge said. “We try to include as many local growers as we can.”