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Local Roots recognized as Blue Zone Project

By Staff | Dec 13, 2017

Local Roots, LLC received the Blue Zone Certification. Owners Betsy Ventura and Jean Baer hold the scissors for the ribbon cutting. PHOTO PROVIDED

Local Roots, LLC is the first Blue Zones Project recognized Farmers Market in the state of Florida.

Since owners Jean Baer and Betsy Ventura have a market at Coconut Point in Estero they were able to obtain the the Blue Zone Project recognition, due to it only reaching as far as this city. Ventura said by receiving the Blue Zone Project recognition all of their markets fall under the umbrella.

Ventura hopes that the Blue Zone Project will move into the area, so other businesses on the island can become recognized.

The first time Baer and Ventura heard about the recognition was at a Bonita Springs City Council meeting.

“We were there and a woman from Blue Zone got up and presented to the City of Bonita on how they would like them to embrace this as a city,” Bear said.

Local Roots, LLC Owners Betsy Ventura and Jean Baer. Local Roots is now a Blue Zones Project participating organization. MEGHAN MCCOY

To be recognized as a Blue Zone Project, businesses are recognized on promoting a healthier lifestyle in the most simplistic of terms for both employees and their guests they service.

“Maybe if you’re an employee you would put in vending machines with healthy food in them. You would encourage a smoke free environment. You would stuff your drink machines with flavored waters as opposed to sodas,” Baer said.

Ventura said another example includes walking groups.

“It’s adopting these practices that the Blue Zone decided helps you live longer, healthier lives,” she said.

National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner founded the Blue Zones Project after examining communities across the globe for eight years. In 2009 he partnered with Healthways to bring the secret of longevity to the United States.

The Power 9 principals include move naturally; purpose; down shift of reversing disease by finding stress-reliving strategies; 80 percent rule of eating mindfully and stopping when 80 percent full; plant slant of putting more fruits and vegetables on the plate; wine at 5; family first; belonging to a faith based community and finding the right tribe of positive people.

Baer said Buettner studied communities where people lived to be a 100 years or longer. He came back to the states and found a grant, she said, which allowed him to put his project to the test in Minnesota, in a community that was experiencing a high rate of cardiovascular disease.

“He created an environment for the people in the community that was almost second nature to live healthier,” Baer said, which included walking groups, bike racks, places that offered healthy food options, as well as dog friendly areas. “This one community in Minnesota, after one year they did a study, and their cardiovascular disease dropped by 25 percent. It was a huge overnight impact. Then he embarked in businesses and communities all across the nation.”

The Blue Zone Project follows three P’s – pleasure, pride and purpose.

“What are the implications it can have on the customers visiting and the implications on the vendors,” Baer said.

With 150 vendors, the women can make a pretty substantial mark on the lives of their partners.

The women wanted to obtain the certification because they believed it aligned perfectly with their business.

“We are a great organization that should be Blue Zone Certified,” she said.

Ventura said it was easy for them to encourage a smoke free zone at their Farmers Markets, to be dog friendly, supply bike racks to encourage more bikers to the market, encourage walking and providing fruits and vegetables, which offers healthy eating options. In addition, she said with the Farmers Market having plant vendors it adds a healthier way to live by incorporating them into a home.

“We not only have a healthy atmosphere, we have access for people to take that home with them. So, it’s sort of a two-fold,” Ventura said.

When the Local Roots owners applied for the certification, they had to have their vendors make a pledge that they would, in their own personal lives, live a healthier lifestyle. The goal for the application was to have 25 percent of their vendors.

“We had 47 percent,” Baer said.

Now moving forward, she said they hope to achieve 100 percent of their vendors making the pledge of trying to make small changes in their own life, as well as the product they are offering at the Farmers Market.

The women have encouraged their vendors to offer such healthy options as flavored seltzer water in addition to the soda products.

Other goals Baer has spans out to their Lakes Park Farmers Market.

“It would be awesome to organize a walking group of people there. They call it a Moai. That is an important principal in the Blue Zone, people should have Moai’s,” she said.

For example, with the Lakes Park Farmers Market attracting many young mothers and their children, Baer said it would be wonderful if the Farmers Market would be a vehicle for them to meet other mothers.

“You may develop a whole new Moai. Another peer group and that would be awesome,” she said.

In addition, the women have talked about adding cooking demonstrations to some of the markets.

“There is a lot more room we can go and grow with this to become a healthier organization and to offer it to other people,” Ventura said.

The Blue Zone Project will be incorporated into their newest market, opening Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the front of South Seas Island Resort, 5400 Plantation Road. The weekly market will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until April 3. This market will have a craft component, as well as different vendors than the Sanibel Island Farmers Market.

Ventura said they will try and keep this market smoke free, encourage biking and walking to the market and having plants and healthy food options.

“All of our markets down the board, every single one of them are going to be following the same principals that we are certified for,” she said.

The Sanibel Island Farmers Market is held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 1, through May 27 at Sanibel City Hall, 800 Dunlop Road.