Farmer’s market debuts ‘in the round’

Farmer's market
Judy Thomas had a long line of customers waiting to buy her produce. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria’s new farmer’s market got off to an excellent, albeit abbreviated start Tuesday morning.

Positioned in a semi-circle around the edge of the shade sail structure in City Pier Park, the four vendors who braved the anticipated stormy weather were greeted at 11 a.m. by a large gathering of eager shoppers.

Selling fresh produce and herbs, Judy Thomas had the longest lines of the day and was nearly sold out shortly after noon.

Thomas’ offerings included cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, fresh herbs and more. Visiting from Truman, Minn., and wearing a “Wanderlust” T-shirt, Kim Krueger bought of bunch of fresh mint. When asked what she was going to do with it, she said, “Make mojitos.”

Honey sales
Emily Fletcher samples some of the local honey sold by Neil Currie of Saucy Guys. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Krueger said she planned to coat the rims of her mojito glasses with the local honey she bought from the Saucy Guys, who were set up next to Thomas. Also selling a wide variety of spicy but flavorful homemade hot sauces, the Saucy Guys consist of Neil Currie (a retired pastor) and Jim Brannon (a retired carpenter). Curry said they’re both former cardiac patients and because of that, their products contain very little sodium.

Paul Groesbeck, visiting from Traverse City, Mich., rode his bike to the park. After sampling one of the hot sauces, he said of the new market, “It’s a great destination.”

Visiting from Eau Claire, Wisc. with camera in hand, 15-year-old Emily Fletcher tried the local honey and said, “I love it.”

Debby Haynes Market
Deputy Clerk Debbie Haynes is the driving force behind the Island’s new farmer’s market. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Her dad, Lee, said they were drawn to the market by the large promotional sign they saw. In additional to the banner sign at the south end of the park, banner signs were also placed at the entrance to the city and at the entrance to the Island on Manatee Avenue, in Holmes Beach.

After visiting Thomas’ produce tables, former Denver resident and newly-arrived Holmes Beach resident Cindy Clark sampled some of the hot sauces while shopping with her daughter Chrissy Clark, who preceded her by a few months in moving to the Island.

Next to the Saucy Guys was well-known Island figure Cindy Thompson selling her Inhale Salt Spa Himalayan Pink Salt Sole water and homemade Paradise Spice packets, one of which is called “Anna Maria Island Blend.”

Cindy Thompson
Cindy Thompson brought her Inhale Salt Spa and Paradise Spice goods to Tuesday’s market opening. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Pronounced “so-lay,” Thompson’s Sole water consists of large chunks of pink Himalayan salt contained in a small sealed glass jar with a wood spoon attached to the side. She explained to a new customer how you pour purified water over the salt chunks, let it soak overnight and then drink a spoonful each morning to reap the health benefits of more than 80 natural minerals.

In between sales, Thompson said she’s been waiting 10 years for a farmer’s market in Anna Maria.

Job well done

Market Coordinator Debbie Haynes said she was thrilled with the turnout and she noted that four more vendors postponed their debuts due to approaching weather that would later cut the market short around 2 p.m. due to rain, lighting and a tornado watch.

Haynes’ day job is Deputy Clerk/Treasurer for the city of Anna Maria. She and Public Works Manager Dean Jones originally planned for the vendors to set up their own tents at the northwest end of the park, but they instead had them set up around the perimeter of the shade sail structure because of the possibility of rain.

As the market entered its second rain-free hour, Haynes said she really liked the market-in-the-round feel it created and she suggested that might become the configuration of choice. Thompson said she loved the impromptu sail shade configuration and she envisioned it being even nicer with a full roster of vendors completing the circle.

Haynes said the city was able to get the vendors liability insurance for $42 each through the Florida League of Cities. The temporary policies are good until late May, when the market’s trial run could come to its seasonal end.

Haynes’ husband, Bob, was also on hand, serving as a volunteer at the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring organization’s informational table.

Mayor Dan Murphy stopped by and was quite pleased with the turnout. He said he noticed more foot traffic than usual on Pine Avenue on a Tuesday morning, which was a driving factor in creating a weekly market. The hope is that the farmer’s market will attract folks to the Pine Avenue area and help offset in some small way the Anna Maria City Pier being closed until a new one is built.

The market will continue every Tuesday, weather permitting, through May.

Vendors are still wanted and those interested can contact Haynes at 941-708-6130, ext. 121 or email her at [email protected]

Anna Maria Farmer's Market
The debut Anna Maria farmer’s market was cut short by rain, but will return next week. – Joe Hendricks | Sun