That 1,487.5 pound pumpkin grown by a Connecticut farmer over the summer signals the beginning of the end of the farmers’ market season in the nation’s northern tier. However, here in Southwest Florida, pumpkins launch our season for gathering at local markets to enjoy the flavors, smells, and textures of locally-grown fruits and vegetables, many of them organic.
As the market farming business continues its rapid expansion, local farmers find it’s not their grandpa’s Sunday watermelon stand anymore. According to Terry Banks, manager of the year-round Third Street Farmers Market in Naples, it’s important to offer something new each season while ensuring that the customer favorites continue to be available.
“Most of our vendors return every season,” Banks says. “We keep our vendors as close as possible to food and agricultural.”
New vendors this season at the Third Street Farmers Market include the Freddo Gelataria, Floery Mahoney Daily Chocolate, and Karen Haupt’s Original Monkey Bread Factory. One of the vendors sells organic dog and cat food. The market operates from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Saturday, but a launch of winter season is set for Oct. 15.
Other seasonal farmers markets begin coming to life this weekend. Check for your favorite spot among these listings:
■ Friendly Farmers Market, 3 to 7 p.m. today and every Friday, Golden Gate Community Center, 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. 249-0431
■ Third Street Farmers Market, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, Tommy Bahama parking lot, 1220 Third St. S., Naples. Free admission. 649-6707
■ Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays beginning Nov. 12 through April, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 3901 Davis Blvd., Naples. 643-0197
■ Farmers Market, 8 a.m.to noon Saturdays, Tree of Life Church, 2132 Shadowlawn Drive, Naples; 530-2200notchecked yet
■ North Naples Green Market, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays beginning this Saturday through April 30. Shoppes at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Beach Road and Airport-Pulling Road, Naples.
■ Pine Ridge Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays starting this Sunday, through late April at Bed Bath and Beyond Plaza, Airport-Pulling and Pine Ridge roads, Naples. The market has flowers as well as fish and fresh produce. 249-9888
■ Wednesdays Farmers Market, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays starting Oct. 12 through March 28, St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, 7070 Immokalee Road, Naples. 591-4550
■ Marco Island Farmers Market, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Nov. 2 through April 13, Veterans Community Park, Elkcam Circle and Park Avenue, Marco Island. 642-0575
■ Friendly Farmers Market, 1781 Mandarin Road, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays now through May. 249-0431.
■ Farmers Market, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays Oct. 12 through March 28, St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, 7070 Immokalee Road, Naples. 591-4550.
■ Greenmarket at Coconut Point, noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays from Nov. 3 through April 26, Coconut Point, 23106 Fashion Drive (parking area near Panera Bread), Estero. There will be entertainment weekly December through March and baked goods and art in addition to produce and seafood and produce. (239) 594-9358
■ Farm Fresh Market, sponsored by the Bonita Springs Lion’s Club, 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays, the Promenade, 26851 South Bay Drive, Bonita Springs.
■ Cape Coral Chamber Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays Oct. 15 through May 12 at Club Square, on Southeast Tenth Place just north of 47th Terrace, Cape Coral. Fresh seafood including Pine Island clams, produce, native plants, bakery goods and more. Live entertainment weekly. On the first Saturday of each month, the Cape Coral Arts and Crafts Market joins the farmers market. (239) 549-6900.
■ Alliance for the Arts GreenMarket, McGregor and Colonial boulevards, Fort Myers, begins seasonal hours, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday. The year-round market features free gardening classes taught by local experts twice a month. Items for sale include live quail and quail eggs, heirloom vegetable plants, local seafood and produce, honey, baked goods, sprouts and prepared foods. (239) 939-2787.
■ Downtown Fort Myers Farmers Market, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, Centennial Park, 2000 W. First St., Fort Myers. In addition to local farmers’ fruits, vegetables, native plants and flowers, the market will feature cupcakes from the Cakes, Bakes, and More Pink van, gourmet treats from the Nosh Truck, Captain Bob’s BBQ, Mexican desserts from the Marquesita Factory, and soul food prepared by Radical Rations Catering. (239) 321-7100.