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W_-_HS_Farmers_Market_-_IMG_4700_copyThe High Springs Farmer’s Market is proof that the popularity of farmer’s markets is growing.  In Florida, recent “cottage food” legislation has eased restrictions on manufacturing, selling and storing some products in an unlicensed home kitchen, paving the way for a greater variety of available products.

HIGH SPRINGS – Nationwide the popularity of Farmer’s Markets continues to grow as people discover that buying fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables is not only easier on the pocketbook, but these foods are both tasty and healthy.  And what is good news for High Springs residents is that recently High Springs Farmer’s Market Manager Maria Antela was confirmed as market manager for another two years by the High Springs City Commission.

Citing a doubling of participating vendors during the past two years, Antela said, “Foot traffic has also increased significantly, which has led to increased participation by more vendors.”  The market location, currently at 201 NE 1st Avenue, a main road into High Springs, has also helped area residents become more aware of the market.

Another reason for increased participation is that the government passed a Food Cottage law at the beginning of this year, which enables individuals to prepare baked good and other items at home without the requirement of having to own and maintain a certified kitchen.  “Other regulations do apply, but the cost of setting up a certified kitchen is not one of them,” Antela explained.

Because of the Food Cottage law, participation by homemakers and others this year has added to the number of vendors available to serve the public.  “Plus,” she said, “their food is really, really good and adds an additional element to the market that helps attract buyers.”

“Since people have become more aware in recent years of the movement to buy local and keep the impact of transportation to a minimum, folks are more interested in buying food from people they know and helping their local economy,” said Antela.  “People like supporting their neighbors.”

Buyers also like to get to know the vendors and are aware that some are organic growers and some provide pesticide-free produce.  “Through rain and the heat of summer, vendors show up every week to serve their customers,” Antela said.  “They have a lot of pride in what they produce.  They bring their best produce to the market and enjoy seeing how well the food is received by local buyers.”

“Many of our local farmers lost crops this year due to rain.  I’m glad the citizens want to help support those farmers,” said Antela.  “Their purchases help the local economy to flourish and grow,” she said.

But folks don’t just stop by the market to buy produce.  “The market has become a social event for the community,” Antela said.  “People stop by to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables and run into neighbors and friends.  People feel comfortable there.

“They actually stay and visit with the farmers and others they meet at the market and sometimes exchange recipes.  We have picnic tables around and folks will sometimes have lunch and stay the whole time the market is open to visit with neighbors and friends, which is wonderful,” Antela added.

Antela, who originally took over the farmer’s market in October 2010, started out as a vendor.  As previous coordinator for the community garden in High Springs, which won the Project for Public Spaces award in 2007, she sold produce from that garden to be able to support the program and also sold local honey.  She also previously managed a military warehouse and said she understands proper inspections and best management practices.

As a previous owner and operator of her own business in south Florida, Antela said she “understood the demands of management and the entrepreneurial spirit it takes to become a vendor.”

The position, which Antela describes as “fun,” also is a lot of work.  “I enjoy it immensely.  I like to eat well and know what it’s like to grow your own food from my previous experience with the city garden.”

“Volunteers help significantly,” she said.  “I couldn’t do it without their support and the excellent support of the city.”

A prime example of the volunteer spirit and “can do” attitude of her volunteers is the completion of a $250,000 USDA grant application for a pavilion for the market.

“The grant application process was a collaboration of individuals from different areas who helped to write the grant,” said Antela.  “It was a community effort,” she said proudly.

The final draft of the application was recently submitted.  If approved, a 30- x 100-ft. pavilion will be erected on City property located near the chamber building and railroad tracks, which was the original location of the market.

The pavilion, which is expected to take 90-120 days to build, will provide water and electrical power, as well as protection from the elements for vendors.  In addition to scheduled farmer’s market sales every Thursday and the first Saturday of the month, Antela said the market will do community events and fund-raisers for the market at that location.

According to Antela, the City has already provided $59,000 of in-kind donations toward the farmer’s market pavilion, and the Community Redevelopment Agency paid $17,000 for the architectural design of the pavilion, which had to be submitted to USDA along with the grant application.

The farmer’s market partners with schools to help supply seeds and other items necessary for children to learn to grow their own food.  “They provide us with a wish list and we try to provide as many of the items on the list as possible,” said Antela.  “This is an investment in our future.”

“As farmers grow older and retire, our children will be the ones responsible for taking care of the food system.  Through this partnership, we are able to help children learn about their local food supply and how it is cultivated,” she said.

The farmer’s market gives children (through their schools) a free vendor spot to sell the food they grow so they can see the entire process of farming from working the soil, planting and taking care of their gardens through the sales process.  “We help support the schools and ask that they support FFA with our contributions to their programs,” explained Antela.

“We want everyone to be able to participate in the farmer’s market,” said Antela.  The market now accepts debit and credit cards as well as food stamp cards.  “We want the process of buying locally to be easy for our citizens,” she said.

The High Springs Farmer’s Market is open each Thursday from noon to dusk and the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

#     #     #

email Cwalker@alachuatoday.com

W_-_HS_Farmers_Market_-_IMG_4700_copyThe High Springs Farmer’s Market is proof that the popularity of farmer’s markets is growing.  In Florida, recent “cottage food” legislation has eased restrictions on manufacturing, selling and storing some products in an unlicensed home kitchen, paving the way for a greater variety of available products.

HIGH SPRINGS – Nationwide the popularity of Farmer’s Markets continues to grow as people discover that buying fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables is not only easier on the pocketbook, but these foods are both tasty and healthy.  And what is good news for High Springs residents is that recently High Springs Farmer’s Market Manager Maria Antela was confirmed as market manager for another two years by the High Springs City Commission.

Citing a doubling of participating vendors during the past two years, Antela said, “Foot traffic has also increased significantly, which has led to increased participation by more vendors.”  The market location, currently at 201 NE 1st Avenue, a main road into High Springs, has also helped area residents become more aware of the market.

Another reason for increased participation is that the government passed a Food Cottage law at the beginning of this year, which enables individuals to prepare baked good and other items at home without the requirement of having to own and maintain a certified kitchen.  “Other regulations do apply, but the cost of setting up a certified kitchen is not one of them,” Antela explained.

Because of the Food Cottage law, participation by homemakers and others this year has added to the number of vendors available to serve the public.  “Plus,” she said, “their food is really, really good and adds an additional element to the market that helps attract buyers.”

“Since people have become more aware in recent years of the movement to buy local and keep the impact of transportation to a minimum, folks are more interested in buying food from people they know and helping their local economy,” said Antela.  “People like supporting their neighbors.”

Buyers also like to get to know the vendors and are aware that some are organic growers and some provide pesticide-free produce.  “Through rain and the heat of summer, vendors show up every week to serve their customers,” Antela said.  “They have a lot of pride in what they produce.  They bring their best produce to the market and enjoy seeing how well the food is received by local buyers.”

“Many of our local farmers lost crops this year due to rain.  I’m glad the citizens want to help support those farmers,” said Antela.  “Their purchases help the local economy to flourish and grow,” she said.

But folks don’t just stop by the market to buy produce.  “The market has become a social event for the community,” Antela said.  “People stop by to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables and run into neighbors and friends.  People feel comfortable there.

“They actually stay and visit with the farmers and others they meet at the market and sometimes exchange recipes.  We have picnic tables around and folks will sometimes have lunch and stay the whole time the market is open to visit with neighbors and friends, which is wonderful,” Antela added.

Antela, who originally took over the farmer’s market in October 2010, started out as a vendor.  As previous coordinator for the community garden in High Springs, which won the Project for Public Spaces award in 2007, she sold produce from that garden to be able to support the program and also sold local honey.  She also previously managed a military warehouse and said she understands proper inspections and best management practices.

As a previous owner and operator of her own business in south Florida, Antela said she “understood the demands of management and the entrepreneurial spirit it takes to become a vendor.”

The position, which Antela describes as “fun,” also is a lot of work.  “I enjoy it immensely.  I like to eat well and know what it’s like to grow your own food from my previous experience with the city garden.”

“Volunteers help significantly,” she said.  “I couldn’t do it without their support and the excellent support of the city.”

A prime example of the volunteer spirit and “can do” attitude of her volunteers is the completion of a $250,000 USDA grant application for a pavilion for the market.

“The grant application process was a collaboration of individuals from different areas who helped to write the grant,” said Antela.  “It was a community effort,” she said proudly.

The final draft of the application was recently submitted.  If approved, a 30- x 100-ft. pavilion will be erected on City property located near the chamber building and railroad tracks, which was the original location of the market.

The pavilion, which is expected to take 90-120 days to build, will provide water and electrical power, as well as protection from the elements for vendors.  In addition to scheduled farmer’s market sales every Thursday and the first Saturday of the month, Antela said the market will do community events and fund-raisers for the market at that location.

According to Antela, the City has already provided $59,000 of in-kind donations toward the farmer’s market pavilion, and the Community Redevelopment Agency paid $17,000 for the architectural design of the pavilion, which had to be submitted to USDA along with the grant application.

The farmer’s market partners with schools to help supply seeds and other items necessary for children to learn to grow their own food.  “They provide us with a wish list and we try to provide as many of the items on the list as possible,” said Antela.  “This is an investment in our future.”

“As farmers grow older and retire, our children will be the ones responsible for taking care of the food system.  Through this partnership, we are able to help children learn about their local food supply and how it is cultivated,” she said.

The farmer’s market gives children (through their schools) a free vendor spot to sell the food they grow so they can see the entire process of farming from working the soil, planting and taking care of their gardens through the sales process.  “We help support the schools and ask that they support FFA with our contributions to their programs,” explained Antela.

“We want everyone to be able to participate in the farmer’s market,” said Antela.  The market now accepts debit and credit cards as well as food stamp cards.  “We want the process of buying locally to be easy for our citizens,” she said.

The High Springs Farmer’s Market is open each Thursday from noon to dusk and the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

#     #     #

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