Seasonal lattes and knit sweaters are the dreams of northerners as the winter months encroach on fall. Down South however, where the sun continues to glare down around 77 degrees, Florida has its own version of winter. The decline in daytime temperature is enough to withstand being outdoors long enough to enjoy some of the best goods Floridians have to offer.
In Florida, farmers markets run year round, but standing outside in the blistering summer heat isn’t a favorite pastime. So when winter approaches, you couldn’t ask for a better chance to spend time with family or friends, all the while strolling between colorful local vendors. Customers can find recently plucked produce and plants, fresh baked goods, and hand crafts.
Most markets run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., typically from October to May. A few in the Tampa area include the Seminole Heights Sunday Market at Hillsborough High School, North Tampa Market at the Carollwood Cultural Center in Tampa, Corey Avenue Sunday Market at St. Pete Beach, and Fresh Market at Hyde Park Village. These locations hold from 60 to 125 vendors for attendees to peruse.
Although artisan soaps and housewares are charming, most who attend farmers markets are looking for their seasonal crop favorites. Some produce to be on the lookout for in the upcoming months include avocados, bell peppers, eggplant, guavas, mushrooms, radishes, snap beans and squash. Some growers even offer a variety of goods the likes you may not have the knowledge of or option to buy in a grocery store, such as carambola or starfruit.
Farmers markets offer the freshest local fruits, vegetables and herbs, all for the most affordable prices. Buying locally is your chance to step away from large-scale agribusinesses and give back to family farmers. In the competitive food marketplace, buying local puts 100 percent back into the growers pocket. This means you can also request specific goods that they may not otherwise provide. Local owners are often happy to accommodate regular customers and grow their product selection.
For the health conscious eater farmers markets are often the safest as well. Hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and genetic modification are just a few common concerns present in most large scale products. By purchasing food directly from the grower, you know exactly where it comes from and can ask questions you would otherwise never be able to.
Small-scale farmers are not only open to communication, but they rarely have anything to hide. They are some of the most passionate people who pride themselves in sharing their sustainable techniques and ethics. Farmers who speak directly to their customers best know their preferences and what they can do to meet them. By knowing their own products so well, they can even offer tips, techniques and recipes for the best outcome.
For buyers concerned about the humane treatment of animals, small-scale farmers have the ability and means to take care of their animals in the most natural way possible. They can provide green grass, free or enclosed roaming areas, and the most natural diets possible. Some farmers also mix and season their own meat, and can tell you all of the steps their product went through. This assures that the best cared for and quality meat is making it onto your plate.
Buyers can also feel good about the practices used in transporting local goods. Growers transporting their own products drastically cuts down gas usage and wasteful packaging. Large-scale products typically travel an average of 1500 miles to get to your dinner plate. By purchasing locally, you can help diminish the use of natural resources and the contribution to pollution.
If you’re looking for a feel-good way to enjoy the outdoors while supporting local businesses and their families, the farmers market is for you. Casually shop with friends or family, and enjoy a made to order lunch or drink from local food trucks and vendors. Anyone interested can visit Tampabaymarkets.com to see a list of the best markets in the surrounding area, or for a comprehensive shoppers guide to help you better search and understand listed vendors products.