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Farmers Market – Cape Chamber kicks off ‘fresh’ weekly event

By Staff | Oct 5, 2017

Back again – and better every season – the Cape Coral Farmers Market kicks off Saturday.

Organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, the market will run every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. though May 18 at Club Square, located in the South Cape. Featuring 130-plus vendors, it offers everything from local produce, seafood and baked goods, to handmade soaps and cut flowers.

“We have a lot of new vendors, new craft vendors,” Claudia St. Onge, business manager for the chamber and the coordinator of the market, said. “We like to have something for everybody.”

She noted that the chamber has been trying to add more for its vegan customers.

“We’re trying to up the healthy food pieces that go along with the market,” St. Onge said.

The core of the market’s vendors is produce.

“We have 25-plus produce vendors,” she said. “Some are growers, some are resellers.”

St. Onge explained that the resellers are selling produce from area farms.

“Those are vendors that work with farmers down here,” she said.

Organic local produce is also available for sale.

Market shoppers can find anything like pickles and olives, and handmade cheeses, jams and honey, along with more specialized items such as watermelon green tea, essential oils and kombucha.

There are Italian wedding cookies, rum cakes, fresh bread and more.

“We have wonderful breads and pastries,” St. Onge said. “I love to have our locals represented.”

The seafood includes authentic Maine lobster, which can be found on rolls and in chowder.

An array of homemade crafts will be available to look at.

“We’re talking jewelry, hats, all sorts of different things. Handmade soaps,” she said.

“It’s a busy market,” St. Onge added.

There are even a few “flea market” vendors for those who enjoy them.

“We like to have something for everybody to look at,” she said.

Live music is provided every week through a rotating schedule of performers. There is Yard Dog Charlie, who plays Florida swamp music; steel drummer Dave Lapio; and Trop Rocker John Friday.

“It’s like Jimmy Buffet type of music,” St. Onge said.

A new performer this season is Dave Byron, who plays classical Spanish to classic rock.

“There’s always two of them there each week,” she said. “We have one on each end of the market for people to enjoy.”

The chamber has also lined up more food trucks for the market.

“We’ll have a larger selection,” St. Onge said. “They generally rotate in and out.”

A typical Saturday will feature between five and seven on-site food trucks.

There are even some booth spaces for local businesses to promote their products and services.

“We have spaces available each week,” she said.

Last December, the chamber implemented a program called Fresh Access Bucks through a grant from the Florida Organic Growers. The program doubles the purchasing power of SNAP and EBT users.

If a customer spends $10 of their benefits at the market, they get an extra $10 in tokens.

The tokens, which vary in color, can be used toward Florida-grown fruits and vegetables and SNAP eligible items. The participating vendors will display token-matching colored circles at their tents.

St. Onge pointed out that because of Hurricane Irma, officials have increased the cap amount for getting double the purchase power from $20 to $40. The increase is available through Oct. 31.

“They’re doing a match of up to $40 for the month of October,” she said.

Fresh Access customers cannot receive cash back for unused tokens, but they can use the tokens next time. When they buy items with tokens, vendors will give them tokens back as change – not cash.

For several years, the chamber has continued to offer its Market Bucks program.

Visitors who forgot to bring cash can swipe their debit or credit card and receive Market Buck tokens. The tokens look different from the Fresh Access Bucks tokens and can be used as cash at vendors.

“We’re just looking forward to a great season,” St. Onge said.

The chamber also hosts the Cape Harbour Farmers Market and Surfside Sunset Market.

The Cape Harbour Farmers Market runs May through September from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cape Harbour. The Surfside Sunset Market runs every Tuesday from 1 to 6 p.m. at The Shops at Surfside.

For more information on the markets, visit online at capecoralfarmersmarket.com or visit any of the Facebook pages for the markets at “Cape Coral Farmers’ Market” or “Surfside Sunset Market.”

People can also contact the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral at 239-549-6900.

Club Square is at Southeast 47th Terrace and Southeast 10th Place.

Cape Harbour is at 5703 Cape Harbour Drive.

The Shops at Surfside is at Veterans Parkway and Surfside Boulevard.