Finding Fresh Food Just Got Easier

By Micheal Salerno
Daily Sun Staff Writer

THE VILLAGES – Nothing beats fresh for Alicia Jordan.

That’s why she is thrilled about The Villages Farmers Markets at Spanish Springs and Brownwood being included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Farmers Market Directory.

“Everything here is fresh,” said Jordan, of the Village of Belle Aire. “You can taste the difference when you come here.”

Consumers can use the online directory to find local farmers market locations, operating times and the types of products offered, the USDA stated.

Both the Thursday market in Spanish Springs and the Saturday market in Brownwood are listed in the directory.

USDA staff compiles the information from market owners and state agriculture departments, said Peter Wood, spokesman for the
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. That division is responsible for maintaining the directory.

“It’s a way to connect people with local food, where they can find a place near them to know their farmer and know who produced their food,” Wood said.

The two weekly farmers markets in The Villages are among more than 8,400 markets listed in the national database, the USDA stated recently.

Heightened awareness on a national scale works not only to attract more consumers to the farmers market, but also to shops and restaurants on the squares, said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial sales and leasing.

“Inclusion in this national database will bring exposure both to those vendors supporting our farmers markets and the businesses at the squares hosting the events,” Renick said. “So this is a great thing for the local community.”

Many farmers market vendors are happy about the markets’ inclusion in the national database, because it helps raise awareness of local products in and around The Villages.

Scott Irving, of Riverview Apiary in Lake Panasoffkee, said any exposure and recognition is good for his business, which sells locally made honey and has a booth at the markets.

Despite the farmers markets’ presence in the community since 2012, some may not realize they exist, Irving said.
“So many people ask, ‘How long has this farmers market been here?” he said. “People who come to The Villages from up north often wonder how far they need to go to find a farmers market, when we have one right here.”

When People discover the markets, they appreciate the freshness of the products and the knowledge of the vendors, said Jonathan Squires, owner of Just Perfect Plants in Leesburg.

“I only grow fresh; I never buy and resell,” Squires said. “And we’re always trying to show that dealing with farmers markets is dealing with small business, which is the backbone of the U.S.”

Hot dog kitchen proprietor Paul Jochum, one of the first vendors at the Brownwood Farmers Market, continues to experience a great deal of customer loyalty.

Of the four farmers markets at which he sells hot dogs, he does the most business in The Villages. Jochum looks forward to gaining even more customers as a result of The Villages’ presence in the directory.

“I’m very appreciative of The Villages for giving me this opportunity to develop a customer base,” Jochum said. “It’s been a real blessing to me. Plus, I love the people.” And the people love the market.

It’s where Eileen Holton stocks up on her fruit, vegetables, eggs and honey.”I believe in buying from the local farmers,” said Holton, of the Village of Polo Ridge. “I like to buy organic, fresh, natural and local. If you want to eat good, healthy food, you have to go where it is.”