by SC Reporter Teresa Vazquez
Under different colored tents await dips, fresh produce, homemade cheese and various other goods at the Sanibel Island Farmers Market. Back for its 13th season, the market is being dubbed as a “grab and go market” due to the ongoing pandemic.
“We’re encouraging people to prepare a grocery list [and] know what they want to buy when they come in,” Market Operator Jean Baer said. “They can even get the vendors’ email addresses if they want to order in advance.”
Baer and Betsy Ventura, owners and operators of Local Roots, have been running farmer’s markets throughout Lee County since 2008. They were not exempt to the pandemic’s effects and like many others had to create a new normal.
At the Sanibel market, several modifications were made in March including the removal of non-food vendors. This new season the booths are back, but the modifications remain: masks are required, hand sanitizer will be available, sampling is not allowed, and social distancing is encouraged.
The same will be expected at the Captiva Island Farmers Market, which will open the last Tuesday in November.
Visitors can expect many of their favorite vendors along with some new ones, shared Baer. On that list is Twila Mae’s Chicken Salad, a “post-pandemic pivot” made by owner Landon Stevenson.
Stevenson, who runs Twila Mae’s, opened up this new business as a response to a drop in sales at his original business Simply Savory Gourmet Blends, which his dad started in 2009.
Prior to the pandemic, Simply Savory was filled with costumers flooding in to sample their various dips. Now unable to provide samples their sales have dropped which gave them the idea to open Twila Mae’s. People are familiar with chicken salad so there is no need for sampling, explained Stevenson.
Although this season looks different than usual — featuring masks and a whole lot of hand sanitizer — Stevenson said he is happy to be back. He described the market atmosphere as vibrant and lush as vendors try their best to get back.
“We’re all glad to be back to a little bit of normal after our whole world has kinda been turned upside down in the last few months,” Stevenson said. “We’re glad to have some sense of community again.”
The farmer’s market has become a staple for the community which helped Baer and Ventura decide to open the market. It is an open-air shopping alternative that many people like especially during these times, Baer said. Most importantly, they wanted to help get local businesses running again, she added.
“We’re looking forward to having a great season,” Baer said. “We appreciate shoppers coming out again to support local business.”
The Sanibel Island Farmers Market will run thru the last Sunday in May from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sanibel City Hall, 800 Dunlop Rd.
The Captiva Island Farmers Market will open the last Tuesday in November at the parking lot at the entrance of South Seas Island Resort. The market will run on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until April 27.