Organizers have worked with city to devise a CDCcompliant plan
By Earle Kimel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lee A. Perron 310 308-0251
Venice Farmers Market to Re-Open on July 11, 2020!
Stop whatever you may be doing right now…. Yes, even if have to pull your car over to the side of road, get out, look up to the heavens and shout “This is the best day ever!”
Then mark your calendar for the greatly anticipated re-opening of the Venice Farmers Market on Saturday July 11th at City Hall, 401 W. Venice Avenue!
Welcome the return of your favorite summer vendors offering amazing produce, fresh baked goods including breads, pies, bagels and pretzels, wild caught seafood, Florida grown mushrooms, boutique cheeses, locally roasted coffee, kettle corn, hand crafted soap, essential oils, nursery plants, and fresh cut flowers. In addition, your favorite local artists will be attending the market offering award winning photography, unique clay art and jewelry, hand designed clothing for children and adults, and much more!
Our market staff and vendors have gone to great lengths to create a CDC compliant and safe socially distanced outdoor shopping experience for our community. All staff and vendors will wear masks and gloves and sanitizing stations will be available. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the City of Venice in order to comply with all federal, state and local guidelines for food and personal safety. Please visit our website @ www.thevenicefarmersmarket.org and select the FAQ tab to read about our new operating guidelines.
New news! During the construction of the new fire station and expansion of City Hall, the market will re-locate out of the parking lot but will still operate at City Hall. The farmers market will set up on W. Venice Avenue between Harbor Avenue and Avenue des Parques, located between City Hall and the tennis courts.
Great news! We now offer all SNAP participants unlimited double dollars at the Venice Farmers Market! If you swipe your card for $100 we will issue you a total of $200 in token dollars to spend. Any amount…. Unlimited matching!
So load up the kids and head on down to our family friendly event every Saturday morning at the Venice Farmers Market. Summer hours are from 8 AM to Noon. Please, only service animals will be allowed during current COVID 19 rules.
For more information, please check out our website: www.thevenicefarmersmarket.org
Contact Lee Perron via e-mail @ email@example.com or phone @ (941) 445-9209.
ENGLEWOOD — As might be expected in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, farmers markets are suspended.
Englewood and Venice markets aren’t happening, organizers announced Tuesday.
The Punta Gorda Farmers Market has also been suspended, but organizers anticipate reopening the market next month.
“Our markets will remain closed until further notice in compliance with federal, state and local guidelines,” manager Lee Perron announced in an email Tuesday.
Perron manages the markets in Englewood, Venice and the new market that started this year at CoolToday Park in North Port, spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. That market was canceled earlier this month after Major League Baseball shut down spring training.
“The phone volume and e-mails regarding our markets have been massive,” Perron said.
But that doesn’t mean people have to deprive themselves of fresh vegetables. Patrons may still contact their favorite vendors individually and make their own arrangements.
“We are also directing customers in a responsible way to use our vendor directory on our websites to contact vendors directly,” Perron said. People need to arrange their own delivery and/or pick up options that comply with current social contact guidance.”
Perron encouraged vendors to use the markets’ Facebook pages as a platform to sell their products.
The vendor directories can be found on www.englewoodfarmersmarket.org or www.thevenicefarmersmarket.org.
“Flexibility, patience and kindness will allow us all to work through our current global crisis,” Perron said. ‘Be well and be safe.”
On any given Saturday morning in the parking lot of Venice’s City Hall, throngs of shoppers stroll through the many booths in the Venice Farmers Market, sampling local delicacies and taking in the artwork. A recent visit saw many happy folks dancing to a vibrant steel drum calypso band as the delicious scents of fresh-baked French bread, Spanish paella and South American empanadas wafted through the crisp morning air. A variety of other ready-to-eat foods are available at the more than 50 stands featuring vibrantly colored baskets of organic and farm-to-table fresh produce from regional farms, as well as plenty of handmade arts and crafts.
The Venice Farmers Market’s success right now is due in large part to a number of changes that have occurred over the past few years. Following the retirement of the previous market manager, in June 2017 the City of Venice awarded the market’s contract to the nonprofit Friends of Sarasota County Parks with Lee Perron as market manager. Lee and his team of four—including Market Operations Manager Tom Stone, EBT/SNAP Manager Amy Stone and Operational Team Member Bob Deal—already had plenty of experience, having founded the Englewood Farmers Market (Thursdays, 9 a.m.) in 2011. Lee’s team is brimming with confidence, spirit and energy and has a sincere desire to bring the freshest local produce possible to Venice shoppers.
“Here when we started at the Venice Farmers Market, we had just 35 vendors, and 43 percent of them were selling arts and crafts,” Lee—wearing his signature welcoming smile and wide-brimmed straw hat—explains. “The first thing we realized was that we needed to diversify in the food space, we needed to bring in more certified organic, we needed to bring in more bakers. We needed to have foods here that people want to buy and consume every week. When we first started, there were no Florida farmers and no Certified Organic. Now we offer all of that and more.”
The group tapped into their many contacts in the local farming and craft foods communities to bring in new growers and have increased the number of vendors to 51. Along with the expansion of the fresh produce and food offerings at the market has been an increasing awareness of local residents of the health and environmental benefits of eating locally grown food. That has resulted in such an increased demand for fresh fruit and vegetables at the market that longtime vendors say the crowds now come immediately when the gates open at 8 a.m., and many growers sell out all their fresh produce quickly.
“This used to be a ‘late’ market; people would come later in the day, and it was a lot of arts and crafts and less fresh produce,” says vendor Sue Drummer of Venus Veggies, a 100 percent Certified Organic farm in Venus, Fla., who gets up at 3 a.m. every morning to load her truck with fresh heads of lettuce to take to market. “Now if people want to get something, they have to come early. It really is a farmers market now. I brought 100 heads of lettuce today and sold everything—all my kale and radishes by 10 a.m. Since Lee took over, my income has doubled, and the crowds have doubled.”
The move to City Hall’s parking lot because of the ongoing roadwork in downtown Venice has allowed the market to spread out, offering much more room for shoppers. But this relocation, which happened this past summer, also came with some challenges.
“I’ve been selling fish in the Venice Farmers Market for 23 years,” says vendor Maggie Balsch, whose stand offers locally caught grouper, snapper, tuna, pompano, cobia, hogfish, as well as cod and haddock from northern waters. “I am the only original vendor left. There have been pros and cons with the move. We have more space but do miss some of that foot traffic off Venice Avenue, and it is harder for some of Venice’s older folks from the KMI building to come over here. But the location is beautiful; it’s bigger, it’s wider, it’s easier to walk around. Those are really positive things.”
Lee says that since the addition of the new vendors and the market’s relocation, attendance has continued to grow and is now up 35 percent from where it was two years ago. He and his team take head counts in the market every 30 minutes to track attendance. The market is now attracting more than 4,000 people every Saturday. Some of those shoppers take part in the EBT and SNAP food assistance programs, and the Venice Farmers Market matches any funds spent by those participants up to $40.
“We really want people to know that,” Lee says. “We double the EBT and SNAP dollars. Local people are taking advantage of the matching funds. Our Englewood and Venice markets are in the top three for participation in this program in the whole state of Florida.”
The marker is a nonprofit organization, and the market managers in the past year have donated more than $17,000 back to the community, including gifts to the Salvation Army Food Bank, Good Samaritan Pharmacy (featured in the Good Times section of this issue), Our Mother’s House residential program, as well as local parks.
“A farmers market is where urban meets rural,” Lee says. “The farmers come to you. They just picked the produce yesterday, and you get to eat it today. It hasn’t been sitting on a truck for a week, and it helps us reduce our carbon footprint.”
Lee regularly makes meals for himself out of ingredients sourced strictly from the farmers market and suggests that anyone can give that a try.
“One recent meal I made, I went to Maggie’s for seafood, got a lot of fresh Gulf shrimp, fresh wild-caught and never frozen. They taste like lobster,” he explains. “I bought olive oil and vinegar right here in the market. Onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh pasta made right here in the market. I grilled the shrimp and vegetables, cooked the pasta wet in the pan with fresh pesto. I had fresh bread made that morning from the baker. I had a wonderful meal,and I got everything here. It just takes good ingredients, and you can get all of it here in the Venice Farmers Market!”
City Hall, Saturdays 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (until noon the off season), 941.445.9209. TheVeniceFarmersMarket.org
Editor’s Note: We spoke with Lee Perron with the Venice Farmer’s Market (VFM) to learn more about the operation and its community impact. The VFM is held 8am to 1pm every Saturday through April, and 8am to noon May through December. Visit TheVeniceFarmersMarket.org.
Lee, what’s the brief history of the VFM and how did you get involved?
The VFM has been in operation in downtown Venice on the island for over 20 years. Maggie’s Seafood was one of the first charter members and they still offer Florida wild-caught seafood to this day.
How has the Venice City Hall worked as the location?
The public response has been very positive. Staff and vendors appreciate the location with its wider pedestrian walkways, beautiful shade trees and picnic tables. The City has been a great partner.
How many vendors participate and what’s the economic impact?
We now have 51 vendors. The 19 newer vendors have been local farmers, rock star bakers, and artisan food purveyors. Adding more food options has enhanced the VFM. The UF Economic Impact Study concluded vendors created $2.6M in revenue with a total impact of $5.3M on the downtown area.
What’s the process for selecting vendors?
We are at capacity with a long waiting list, but completing an application is the first step. We are always looking for diverse and high-quality products that address the needs of our customers. And of course we value attracting top notch people that support their product. Professionalism, experience and a strong customer service background enhance the market experience.
How does the market benefit local nonprofit groups?
Every week we have a non-profit guest to help build awareness of their mission, fundraising opportunities and volunteer needs. We contributed $17,000 in 2018 to local nonprofits serving the Venice community. We also offer the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and we double participant’s money when they shop so they can purchase twice as much nutritious food.
Lee, what’s your professional background?
I worked 27 years in the cable television and Internet industry and that includes serving as senior vice-president for Adelphia Communications.
What do you enjoy most about your role with the Venice market and the Thursday market in Englewood?
I appreciate our focus on nutritional health, education, sustainability, and community goodwill. I also value being part of an organization that supports local nonprofits.
How are the two markets similar and dissimilar?
Both are nonprofits with the same mission and a focus on providing good food from local sources. Each community has its own personality and preferences, so many of our vendors reflect those nuances.
Article from South County Healthy Living
Date of move to new venue near City Hall depends on street reconstruction
By Earle Kimel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
VENICE — Like so much in downtown Venice this summer, plans to move the Venice Farmers Market from its current home on Tampa Avenue to Avenue des Parques near City Hall hinge on when the downtown street reconstruction project begins.
“We’re in the process of identifying which Saturday, which week would be the best for us to make the move,” said Lee Perron, who managesthe market on behalf of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks.
Perron met recently with Assistant City Manager Len Bramble to finalize the site plan for the market along Avenue des Parques. Part of that plan includes the city’s installing conduit and providing additional electrical outlets on the edges of the parking lot at Venice City Hall for vendor to use
|A recent cover photo from the Venice Farmers Market Facebook page. Lee Perron, who manages the market on behalf of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, anticipates moving the market from the 200 block of Tampa Avenue to Avenue des Parques near City Hall in the latter half of June.|
Meanwhile the Venice City Council finally defined the scope of work on the $8.3 million reconstruction of Venice, Tampa and Miami avenues at its May 22 meeting.
A timetable should be set at a preconstruction meeting Tuesday, though City Engineer Kathleen Weeden said actual street closings may not happen until the week of July 9.
Depending on how things go, Perron anticipates moving the market from the 200 block of Tampa Avenue in the latter half of June. Off-season hours started in May, so the market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon through December.
“I think everything is falling into place very very nicely,” Perron said. “We’re exactly where we need to be right now.”
Perron and the Friends of Sarasota County Parks took over operation of the market last July, following the retirement of longtime market manager Linda Wilson.
The past year the market grew to feature as many as 50 vendors, offering a variety of food and wares — including baked goods, international foods and a cheese monger.
Perron said that customer volume at the market grew about 30 percent this past season.
In 2016, the market’s high volume was about 3,200 people per week. In March, the average was 5,000 people per week.
After season, the number of vendors traditionally decreases, but this year 45 vendors plan to stay on through the summer.
“All but five of our vendors said they had such a great winter in season that they wanted to stay,” Perron said. “That really makes it a much more vibrant market.”
The hope is that fewer Venice residents will trek up to downtown Sarasota for their fresh produce needs, because the local market will offer plenty of variety.
“They’re going to have all the choices that they want right there in the city,” Perron said.
Contact: Lee A. Perron 941-445-9209
The Venice Farmers Market celebrates its 20th Anniversary this season by adding an exciting new line-up of all star vendors. Starting this month the VFM will be adding over a dozen new vendors in the food space. Don’t miss our new fresh and organic Florida farmers Venus Veggies and Fresh Harvest, our four new bakers; French baker JC’s Daily Bread, Sarasota’s own Sift Bakehouse and Five-O donuts, Nona’s Holy Canolli and Island Gluten Free Bakery, along with local gourmet butcher Beef Country and our new artisan cheese monger Stamper Cheese to name just a few. In addition, you’ll see live cooking demos every week with Master Chef Chasky. Chef Chasky will be creating and featuring recipes made with fresh ingredients purchased that morning from the market vendors for both tasting and take away meals!
As part of our mission to support local farmers and an initiative with our SNAP and Fresh Access Bucks double dollars program, we’re thrilled to be adding Florida organic farmers and a fantastic group of food artisans to the Venice market this season” stated market manager Lee Perron.
As a non-profit farmers market that donates its proceeds back to the local community, we’re honored to have the opportunity to give back to the Venice community in ways that add value to the quality of life for our local residents.
The Venice Farmers Market is open every Saturday year around from 8 AM – 12 Noon on the 200 Block of Tampa Avenue W. in historic downtown Venice on the island.
Venice City Hall
401 W. Venice Avenue, Venice Fl 35285
Saturdays 8am to Noon
APRIL thru SEPTEMBER
Saturdays 8am to 1pm
OCTOBER thru MARCH