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Sanibel market drawing to a close

By Staff | May 21, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Island residents Betsy Ventura and Jean Baer are the co-owners of Local Roots, which organizes the Sanibel Island Farmers Market on Sundays at City Hall from October through May.

The final Sanibel Island Farmers Market is set for the weekend as it wraps up for the season.

Beginning in October, the last weekly event will take place on May 26 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sanibel City Hall. Organized by Local Roots – co-owned by islanders Jean Baer and Betsy Ventura – it features a mix of vendors and products, with the addition of crafters and prepared meals this year.

Ventura reported that the 2018-2019 season went well.

“With the exception of a few rainy Sundays, we had strong attendance,” she said.

Ventura estimated that the weekly turnouts were about the same as last year.

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“We would love to reach out to some volunteers to help us count next season for a few Sundays, so we can keep track,” she said.

One new element introduced this year was local artisans.

“Having local color and art this season was very popular with both residents and visitors,” Ventura said. “We rotated a few booths bringing different artists-crafters each month, which really made the market have something new each week.”

Another addition was prepared meals-to-go available for purchase.

“Chef Jared from The Community House was one of our new vendors this season and he focused on prepared meals,” she said. “He was an instant hit and quickly added to his menu after selling out.”

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“He and the other vendors that bring the prepared meals really do add so much to making the market unique,” Ventura added. “Since we are in a resort area, a lot of people find buying meals ready to heat-and-eat allows them more time to spend enjoying the islands.”

Marking its 11th season, the market features local produce, seafood, breads, cheese, eggs, honey, jams, guacamole, pastas, hummus, barbecue, smoothies, candles, soaps, granola, organics and more.

She noted that they are just beginning the application process for next year.

“We will be adding a butcher, which was a void this season,” Ventura said of what visitors can look forward to in 2019-2020. “We are also hoping to reduce single-use plastic even more than the banning of plastic straws by pressuring vendors to switch to paper bags and reusable bags next season.”

This year, the market banned plastic straws, as well as only permitted service animals.

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“We spent some time educating shoppers of the new policy that only service dogs were allowed, but for the most part it was a non-issue,” she said of the policy change regarding pets.

Again this season, Local Roots partnered with F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva to collect unsold boxes of vegetables, fruits and other offerings from the vendors each week to donate to the food pantry.

“Gallego’s Farm continued as in the past to donate fresh produce at the end of each Sunday,” Ventura said. “A few of the bakeries also donated when they had surplus.”

“For next season, we have secured additional farmers that will be donating to the food pantry each week, which hopefully will help the community even more,” she added.

The market also serves as a drop-off site for donations for the F.I.S.H. pantry.

“Shoppers dropped off non-perishable foods to the market booth each week that would be picked up by their volunteers,” Ventura said.

The women expressed appreciation to the city staff and officials who helped throughout the year.

“It is with their support that we can have a safe, successful event each week,” Ventura said. “We also thank the Sanibel library staff and board, and BIG ARTS for allowing their parking lots for our overflow.”

The public is invited to come out for a final day of browsing and stocking up on essentials.

“A few vendors have ended their season with us, which allowed us to add a few new vendors to try out in May,” she said. “We have a homemade licorice maker that was added a few weeks ago, and oh my goodness is he ever popular.”

“Also, so we can wish them well and thank them for the support of the market,” Ventura said.

For more information, visit online at buylocallee.com.

The Sanibel City Hall is at 800 Dunlop Road.