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Venice Farmers Market will reopen on Saturday

Organizers have worked with city to devise a CDCcompliant plan

By Earle Kimel (earle.kimel@heraldtribune.com)

VENiCE — The Venice Farmers Market will open for business at Venice City Hall Saturday

morning, with a slightly different layout that will both accommodate for social distancing and ongoing city hall campus renovations.

Venice Avenue will be closed to vehicle traffic between Harbor Drive and Avenue des Parques so market vendors can showcase their products.

“We worked for several months with the city of Venice to come up with a plan where we could open in a CDC compliant way,” said Lee Perron, who manages the market on behalf of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks.

That model evolved from one where people would have been able to shop online and then drive by a location to have goods placed into their trunk to the current one, which is similar to the traditional market but with social distancing safeguards built in.

For example, each vendor tent will be set up 10 feet apart and volunteers will use hand clickers to keep count of the number of patrons who enter the market either from the east or west.

Just like aisles in supermarkets, shoppers will be asked to walk in one direction while shopping — specifically the same direction traffic would flow in each lane.

Dusty’s Produce

Dustin Thibodeau, of Dusty’s Produce from Fort Myers, is one of 32 vendors who will return to the Venice Farmers Market Saturday. This summer, people who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can double the value of the foods they purchase at the market through a program sponsored by Feeding Florida. [HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE / THOMAS BENDER]

Lee Perron

Lee Perron, who manages the Venice Farmers Market on behalf of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, said it took a cooperative effort to come up with a market layout that will promote social distancing. [HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE / MIKE LANG]

All market staff and vendors will wear masks and gloves, and sanitizing stations will be available. Restrooms will be available at the Heckscher Park tennis courts.

While service animals are allowed, patrons are urged to leave their pets at home.

Booths will be set up to minimize a customer’s ability to touch products — though those wearing a mask can still choose their produce and are encouraged to take what they touch.

Six-foot social distancing markers will be placed on the pavement, and the areas between booths will be taped off to discourage people cutting through.

Each vendor will have a payment station separate from where products are displayed.

“Everyone is in this together to create this safe environment outdoors,” said Perron, who worked on the layout with Venice Assistant City Manager Len Bramble.

The move to Venice Avenue would have happened even without the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bramble noted that construction on the city hall campus took away about 40% of the market area.

On top of that, the city has been working with Florida Power & Light to get electrical power in the median of the 400 block of West Venice Avenue.

“They’ll be doing, in the next few weeks, a new drop right in the middle,” Bramble said.

Aesthetically, it will allow the city to decorate the trees in the median with holiday lights, but it will also allow farmers market vendors in the westbound lane of the road easy access to electricity.

For now, they will have access to generators, while those in the eastbound lane will still have access to power from city hall.

Frequently asked questions are posted on the market web page, thevenicefarmersmarket.org.

The market is open from 8 a.m. to noon through September and until 1 p.m. in season.

While it is in operation, motorists traveling toward the beach should detour at Harbor Drive and Barcelona Avenue for the block, while eastbound motorists can detour at Avenue des Parques to Granada Street.

About 32 vendors should be at the market Saturday, offering the usual array of fresh baked goods, wild caught seafood, Florida grown mushrooms, boutique cheeses, locally roasted coffee and kettle corn.

Vendors offering handcrafted soaps, fresh cut flowers and nursery plants, as well as local artists will be there too.

The market, which is a nonprofit, has been working with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, since 2014.

Perron said the Feeding Florida network has worked out a deal where people enrolled in the SNAP program can double the value of their purchases at the market.

‘If you come up with $100 to swipe off your card, we will come up with $100 in matching,” Perron said. “For those people, right now, we are doubling whatever dollars they want to spend.” That program should be in effect through all of 2020.

“It’s a win for Florida farmers and the SNAP participants in our community and good use of our grant dollars,” Perron said.

The market will remain on Venice Avenue after the summer, as construction of a new fire station and expansion of city hall continues.

If it’s successful in that location, the process may continue after the new city hall campus is complete.

Perron also manages the seasonal farmers market at CoolToday Park and the seasonal Englewood Farmers Market. He said both of those are expected to reopen in the first week of October.

In the summer, the Venice Farmers Market typically sees about 1,000 to 1,200 people in a fourhour period. Perron is expecting about half of that to show up during the pandemic, or about 150 to 200 people in the market during peak hour.

If it looks like attendance is threatening the ability of people to properly social distance, volunteers at either end would temporarily halt admissions until other shoppers leave.

“You see that often in retail environments now,” Perron said.

Counting both sides of Venice Avenue, the market will operate in about 800 linear feet, with 300-foot-wide lanes.

“You should be able to handle that many people socially distanced for the 32 vendors that we have,” Perron said. “We haven’t seen it in person, but we’re going to, starting Saturday.”

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Please plan to join us this Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 9 to 11 AM at the Venice Farmers Market in the 200 Block of Tampa Avenue W., for a FREE ROCK PAINTING event for children of all ages hosted by Venice Rocks.
Venice Rocks is the brainchild of Garden Elementary art teacher Joanna Davis and is part of the rock painting craze going viral across the internet.
Free rocks and art supplies will be provided by White Cement Specialties, Bespoke Cabinet Design and Mermaids Design Studio.
The rock painting theme will be Florida fresh fruits and vegetables! Once painted the rocks can be “secretly” placed around Centennial Park for a surprise discovery!
So load up the kids and head on down to the Venice Rocks family fun event this Saturday at the Venice Farmers Market.

For more information contact Lee Perron via e-mail: info@thevenicefarmersmarket.org or by phone (941) 445-9202.
Stacks Image 35756

By Earle Kimel (Staff Writer/Herald Tribune)

Linda Wilson retired this month.

VENICE — The Friends of Sarasota County Parks will officially take over operation of the Venice Farmers Market when it opens at 8 a.m. today along the 200 block of Tampa Avenue.

Patrons will not see any changes as all the usual vendors will be there. And they may even recognize the new manager, Lee Perron, as a familiar face because he regularly pinch-hit for former manager Linda Wilson while she was on vacation.

“First off, we’re thrilled to be working with the community and the city of Venice,” said Perron, who also manages the Englewood Farmers Market, which is open in season on Thursdays.

The Friends of Sarasota County Parks operate the Englewood market and a Wednesday market hosted at Phillippi Estate Park in Sarasota County. As a practice, the nonprofit group donates proceeds above operating costs to other area nonprofits.

At Phillippi Estate Park, that typically means supporting the maintenance of a historic home at the park.

In Englewood, proceeds go to local parks, food banks, the Englewood Care Clinic, Meals of Wheels and Englewood Elementary School.

“We will be working with the Venice community to get an idea of where will be the best places to invest, that adds the most value,” Perron said.

Wilson, who operated the Venice market for six years, retired in June to travel with her husband, David. Under her auspices, the market grew from 14 vendors to 45 in season, and at least 38 in the off-season.

The city opened a search for Wilson’s successor, though City Manager Ed Lavallee said the Friends of Sarasota County Parks was an easy choice, partly because of how well Perron and Wilson had worked together in the past.

Perron and Wilson brought the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to Venice and Englewood in 2014. The program allows people to use their Electronics Benefits Transfer cards to purchase produce, receiving up to $20 in additional buying power to help combat food insecurity.

And, of course, he already filled in for Wilson when she was absent.

“If anyone has a working knowledge about how this operates, it’s him,” Lavalle said.

Lavalle characterized the handoff between Wilson and Perron as a smooth one.

“She has done a great job of keeping her vendors informed, indicating to them how they have to maintain their insurance, identified the new market managers by name, so their insurance and liability coverage is up to speed, so I think they’ve done a remarkable job in a relatively short period of time providing for the change.” Lavalle said.

Even as Perron gets acclimated to the market on Tampa Avenue, he will have to search for a temporary site by April 2018, when the city is scheduled to rebuild Tampa, Venice and Miami avenues as part of the $18 million road bond projects.

The work is scheduled to be complete in November 2018. But even without the road project, there have been thoughts of moving the market off Tampa Avenue for a variety of reasons, Lavallee noted. Perron said there’s plenty of time to work out a temporary site during the road construction as well as determine whether its future is back on Tampa Avenue or another city location.

Perron said the market won’t see any major changes. Unlike Englewood — where all vendors are agricultural in nature — Venice has a mix of food and arts and crafts vendors. Both have extensive educational and children’s programs.

“That’s a really good mix for Venice,” Perron said. “Different communities really represent different needs; you really can’t cookie-cutter vendors from one community to another in a thoughtful way.

“It’s very much a tourist destination, the downtown area on the island,” he added. “That reflects the needs that the Venice community would like to see in the farmers market.”

Interested in becoming a vendor at The Venice Farmers Market? Get started by downloading a vendor application!



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