Local Produce Guide: Sources for the Local Cornicopia of Organic Winter Veggies
Nov 04, 2010 09:43PM
● By Linda Sechrist
An adventure in backyard gardening can yield many rewards: fresh, organic produce; time to connect with nature; and a way to simplify life and reduce trips to the grocery store. Although freshly plucked tomatoes, crisp salad greens and other tasty vegetables can make the mouth water and provide the body with a harvest of nutrients, not everyone has the time or inclination to create their own productive plot. Fortunately, here in Southwest Florida, the growing interest in the buy fresh, buy local movement, permaculture and sustainability has created a plethora of additional local sources for fresh-from-the-garden produce. Today, good eating is all about having fresh, local produce your way, whether via a co-op club, community supported agriculture group, farmers’ market, community garden or your own backyard.
In contrast to the 2009-2010 growing season, Green Village Organics now has six locations where its 300 members pick up their fresh produce. “Last year, we only had three pick-up locations and 100 members,” says co-founder Beth Housewert. Now in its fourth year, the co-op club began with 15 members, who stopped by one location to pick up a bright red, reusable bag with their name on it. Today’s members can enjoy additional items, like honey and local eggs, as well as opportunities to participate in an occasional grass-fed beef sale. “We have an entire cow processed and distribute the various cuts of meat when they arrive,” advises Housewert, who clarifies that produce packaged in either $15 or $25 bags is not all straight from the farm. “We buy as much local produce as we can,” she says.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Generally, CSA groups, like co-op clubs, offer a certain number of shares to the public for purchase. Each week, members receive a box or bag of whatever is in season in exchange for their subscription. The benefit: Members get fresh produce and farmers know that they’ve sold a certain portion of their crop before the growing season begins.
This year, Nick Batty, owner of Inyoni Farm, in Naples, enjoys the comfort of knowing that a percentage of his crop of vegetables and herbs—including mixed greens, tomatoes, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, radishes, onions, spinach, arugula, fennel, dill and cilantro—is already promised to members of a CSA managed by For Goodness Sake Marketplace and Café & Nutrition Centers, the Third Street South Farmers’ Market and a new startup farmers’ market at St. Monica’s Church, on Immokalee Road. Batty, who welcomes volunteers, apprentices and interns to his USDA certified, organic, five-acre farm, advises that interest in his local produce has increased 20 percent a year since 2000.
“We had a great reception to Nick’s produce last year, and we expect an even better one this year,” says For Goodness Sake owner Joe Wallen, who advises that pre-orders and pre-payments are accepted prior to the drop-off day on Tuesday. “Nick decides on the assortment of produce that goes into both the one-half box ($11/week) and full-box ($22/week),” says Wallen, who adds that a 15 percent discount is offered to members who commit to a full month and 20 percent is discounted to those who sign up for November through March, Batty’s full growing season. Produce is picked fresh on Tuesday morning and delivered by 4 p.m. that afternoon. It is held until Wednesday at closing time.
Meeting the “5 a day challenge”—five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day for better health—can be easier and more fun if you shop at a local farmers’ market. The prospect of getting to know the individual who grows what goes into your pot and onto your plate becomes a satisfying reality at markets supported by local farmers. Though markets differ, each usually offers one or more sources of fresh produce. If you prefer organic produce, be sure to ask your vendor questions about the pesticides or fertilizers they use.
The North Naples Green Market is the outlet that John Puig chose this year for the organic produce grown at the garden project he facilitates at Eden Florida’s Eimerman Educational Center for autistic children and adults. The market, held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, at Airport and Vanderbilt Beach roads, in Naples, will celebrate its first anniversary in February.
Puig, who truly loves to spread Slow Food’s message of good, clean, nutritious food, doesn’t confine his healthy food campaign to patrons of farmers’ markets; he also teaches volunteers and apprentices, and is offering a series of one-day organic garden seminars at Eden on November 7 and 14 and December 5. Subjects at Eimerman Educational Center vary from composting and worm ranching to container gardens and growing sprouts.
Another gardening series, from October 16 through the end of November, is conducted in a 60-by-50-foot community garden. “The incentive for curious newcomers, as well as those who are looking to learn new techniques, is that they get to take home their harvest,” says Puig, who adds that anyone interested in ordering fresh from Eden’s gardens can do so on Facebook, at [email protected]. “You can order a $10, $15 or $20 assortment of whatever we have in season, and pick it up at our 2801 County Barn location on Tuesdays and Fridays, between 2 and 5 p.m., beginning this month.”
Yet another produce alternative is the trays of seedlings that Eden sells to backyard gardeners. “The most delicate time in a plant’s life is the first two months,” advises Puig, who notes that buying fresh seedlings gives the local gardener a hardier head start. Puig also opens Eden gardens to homeschool and other groups. “We’re looking to build a real sense of community, which is easily done around gardening,” he says.
Frank Oakes, owner of Food & Thought Organic Farm Market & Café, in Naples, is truly a champion of the backyard garden. In fact, he’s never happier than when he is educating his customers about the organic movement and the benefits of home gardening. A past president of Florida Organic Growers (FOG), Oakes operates a five-acre organic farm near Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where he grows most of the produce offered at his store between November and March.
Adamantly organic—everything at Food & Thought carries a USDA certified organic label—Oakes deplores the tragic decline in home gardening. “It is very unfortunate that people can’t grow more nutritious produce as cheaply as they can buy conventionally grown, but less wholesome, food in the grocery store,” he says. “It’s to your benefit to not only find out where your food comes from, but to also meet your farmer and find out how he grows it. Fortunately, that’s getting easier to do here in Southwest Florida.”
Whether grown in a backyard or community garden, or bought from a farmers’ market, CSA, co-op or local organic market, nothing is better for the body or a favorite recipe than a selection of local, in-season produce, obtained your way.
For more information and local resources, see the following list of produce hot spots.
Local Produce Hotspots
Treat your locavore palate to garden-fresh produce at any of these local markets, join a CSA, or visit area farms to see who grows your food and where it comes from.
Farms and Farm Tours
ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization)
17391 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers
Global Farm Tours, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Tuesdays-
Fridays; 10 a.m., Saturdays
Tour fees: $8/adults, $5/children 6-12.
Inyoni Organic Farm
Immokalee Road, seven miles east of I-75
(Produce is sold at For Goodness Sake Organic Marketplace & Café, Third Street South Farmers’ Market and St. Monica’s Farmers’ Market)
Contact: Nick Batty, owner, at 239-980-3605
Oakes Organic Farm
7455 Sanctuary Road, Naples
(Produce is sold at Food & Thought Organic Farm Market & Café)
For more information, visit FoodAndThought.com and click on Events
Rabbit Run Farm Tours
5150 Neal Road, Fort Myers
Saturday farm tours, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Contact: Denise Muir, owner
Call 239-292-0564 for appointment
For a list of farmers’ markets in Florida, visit http://www.florida-agriculture.com/consumers/farmers_markets.htm.
Alliance for the Arts GreenMarket
10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Bonita Springs Farmers’ Market
27300 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs
Wednesdays, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., through April
Cape Chamber Farmers’ Market
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., through May 7
Coconut Point Farmers’ Market
23106 Fashion Drive, Estero
Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Downtown Fort Myers Farmers’ Market
Under the U.S. 41 Caloosahatchee Bridge, Fort Myers
Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., through May
Marco Island Farmers’ Market
Veteran’s Community Park
Corner of Park Avenue and Elkcam Circle, Marco Island
Wednesdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., November 3 - April 13
Contact: Debbie McCab at 239-389-3917
Marco Island Farmers’ Market Saturdays
Marco Lutheran Church
525 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Market in the Park
1515 Golden Gate Pkwy. (at Goodlette-Frank Road), Naples
Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., December-March
(Cap’t. John Puig will teach organic gardening classes from 1 to 3 p.m. for 6 weeks after the market)
Contact: Cynthia Piper at [email protected]
The Market at 6000 Goodlette-Frank N.
6000 Goodlette-Frank Road, Naples
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., October-April
North Naples Green Market
The Collection at Vanderbilt
Corner of Vanderbilt and Airport Road
Winter Outdoor Market: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., October-April
Summer Indoor Market: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., June-September
Contact: Merida Hines-Tyler at
Sanibel Farmers’ Market
Sanibel City Hall
800 Dunlop Road, Sanibel
Sundays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., November-April
St. Monica’s Farmers’ Market
St. Monica Episcopal Church
7070 Immokalee Road, Naples
Wednesdays, 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.
St. Paul’s Farmers’ Market
3901 David Blvd., Naples
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon
Third Street South Farmers’ Market
255 13th Avenue S., behind Tommy Bahama’s in the Neapolitan parking lot between Third Street South and Gordon Drive
Saturdays, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Food & Thought Organic Farm Market & Café
The Gateway of Naples
2132 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
Food & Thought carries organic produce from Frank Oakes’ organic farm.
For Goodness Sake Organic Marketplace and Café
Berkshire Commons, 7211 Radio Road, Naples
(Marketplace only; no café)
Naples Walk Plaza, 2464 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples
Sunshine Plaza (near Ace Hardware)
9118 Bonita Beach Road S.E., Bonita Springs
For Goodness Sake has an organic produce program with Nick Batty’s Inyoni Organic Farm.