Clearly, Marco’s winter tourist season is on the way. Mornings are refreshingly cool, the rains have stopped – mostly – and the Dolphins have already lost seven games. If further proof were needed, here it is: the Farmers’ Market is back.
Wednesday marked the first day for the City of Marco Island’s popular outdoor bazaar, which will continue each Wednesday through next April. In its third year under the auspices of the city, the market, located at Veterans’ Community Park off Elkcam Circle, runs from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Success has brought a full house to the exhibit space, with 113 booths reserved, well over the 70-plus at the start of last year’s season, and a waiting list for those who could not be accommodated. Browsing on a beautiful sunny morning, early bird Mary Alice Wilson was done with her shopping shortly after 8 o’clock, but said she would be back for more.
“I didn’t get a lot today – I had to use restraint,” she said. “But I’m excited it’s started up again.”
Many of the items for sale were not pulled out of the ground or plucked off a tree. The Farmers’ Market includes a wealth of non-farm merchandise, with several booths offering jewelry reputed to have health benefits, soaps, baskets, bowls, wind chimes, and greeting cards.
At her Jewelry Creations booth, Chris Bliss of Naples (no relation to city finance director Patricia) pointed out her work is all original, and handmade.
“I make all the jewelry. There’s nothing imported, and it’s all made in America,” she said.
One booth even features kittens. For the Love of Cats, the Marco-based no-kill feline shelter, had adorable young cats available for adoption for a $10 fee.
Jim Bogard’s Tropical Water Beads tent offered vials of tiny granules, that when soaked swell up into a bowlful of brightly colored globules. His operation, said Bogard, is a fundraiser for development projects benefiting impoverished women in India, supporting micro-loans and hygiene initiatives on the sub-continent.
Food, ready-to-eat, is another popular seller, with a wide variety of bagels, chocolate, sandwiches, and baked goods available. Bistro Soleil has a booth, and Evi’s Bakery presents an assortment of tempting German strudels, cakes and pastries.
One brand-new venture has longtime Marco residents Glenn Walton and Chris Quinton going to the dogs. Beach Dogs, their hotdog cart, offers what they promise to be “the best dogs under the sun. Rick Popoff, owner of Rick’s Island Salon, gave them a try and a thumbs up.
“I can eat a hotdog anytime, but these are great,” he said. “The chili’s outstanding.” Toppings including chili and sauerkraut all come included in the base price.
Of course, a farmers’ market needs farmers, and they were there in abundance. Local produce, strong on watermelons, peppers, tomatoes, and flowering plants, was displayed at many booths, and moved steadily into shopping bags.
Inyoni Farms, a six-acre farm in Golden Gate Estates, offered produce that was both local and organic. Shaina Muth said they were nearly sold out by lunchtime Wednesday, but still had cucumbers and bok choy available.
“We grow everything ourselves. It’s all 100 percent USDA certified organic,” she said.
“Debbie McCabe did a tremendous job putting this together,” said Community Services Director Bryan Milk. “We have a lot of variety, and a lot of homemade and unique items.” Vendors pay $750 per season for a booth, or $175 per month. Last season, the City of Marco made a profit of $60,000 on the operation.