Farmer's markets, other creative ag fun is cranking up
What's significant about October and November in Central and South Florida? Yes, it does mean the return of snowbirds and the ensuing traffic. Other than that, this time of year means that agriculture businesses prep for a new growing season and welcome visitors to their markets and special events. Let's talk first about farmers' markets. The Lake Placid Farmers Market, the first of its new season, took place at Stuart Park this past Saturday. It welcomed around 30 plant, vegetable, wine and craft vendors and plenty more. Eileen May of the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce (a market sponsor) described the market as "charming" and said the market is in its fifth year. The market will take place the second Saturday of each month through March, so expect the next one on the morning of Nov. 9, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., said May. I recently visited the Bradenton Farmers Market, which reopened on Oct. 5 and will be held every Saturday through the end of May. The market sets up shop in downtown Bradenton and attracts a mix of 30 produce, honey, prepared foods, and craft vendors as well as music and chef demonstrations. Although everyone looked wilted form the heat when I arrived toward the end of the market day, there was still a respectable turnout. The market increased its vendor mix by 20 percent and attendance by 25 percent last year, according to its website. I definitely notice more buzz around the market nowadays compared to previous years.In other market-reopening news, the Bridge Street Sunday Market in Bradenton Beach will open up again in November and run through April (it's only steps away from the beach), and the Phillippi Farmhouse Market in Sarasota opened again this month for its weekly Wednesday offerings. The Lakeland Downtown Curb Market reopened last month, but it had only closed for the month of August. I am aware of markets in downtown Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa that stayed open through the summer. Those are some hearty, heat-resistant souls. Special events With more pleasant weather coming in and the population influx that takes place this time of year, agri-businesses are also reopening for special events and tours. I wrote two weeks ago about Dakin Dairy Farm in Myakka City restarting its tours. O'Brien Family Farms in Bradenton will open again in November. It has a u-pick hydroponic area, a market, and some fun educational areas for the kids. King Family Farm in Bradenton, in partnership with the Anna Maria-based event-planning firm The Loft 5, is now holding special Farm-to-Table events, where attendees get to eat a special meal with ingredients picked right from the farm. The event takes place at - you guessed at - King Family Farm. The first Farm-to-Table dinner for the new season was held in early October, said AJ Latteri, owner of The Loft 5. The dinners usually attract 35 to 45 attendees, although one dinner last season had 120 people, she said. Some menu highlights of the last event included mini sweet stuffed peppers with quinoa, berry punch, roll lasagna, and a blueberry compote. More Farm-to-Table dinners will be scheduled soon, Latteri said. If family fun is your thing, then check out Hunsader Farm's annual Pumpkin Festival, running on weekends this month. Festivities include live music and shows, crafts booths, hayrides, a frog jumping championship, and plenty more. It's a fun event, but just be prepared for crowds. If you want something quieter, the farm reopened in mid-September for its petting zoo and u-pick offerings. Hunsader Farms is also located in Bradenton. Finally, even wineries are taking advantage of this time of year. Rosa Fiorelli Winery restarted this past Saturday its Wine and Dine in the Vines weekly dinners, held through mid-November. The dinners feature live music and Italian cuisine.