|People shop and stroll along Montrose Street at the Clermont farmers market.|
January 16, 2012
A Sunday morning spent perusing the farmers market in downtown Clermont can be a thrifty as well as fun experience.
My purchases on a recent excursion included three sweet red peppers ($1 each), two yellow squash ($1 a pound), a large head of broccoli ($2 a bunch), three butternut squash ($1 a pound), seven bananas (50 cents per pound), an 8-ounce package of baby portabella mushrooms ($2) and one eggplant ($1). For less than $15, I returned home with enough produce to satisfy most of our needs for the week at about half of what I would have spent for comparable purchases at the supermarket.
|A colorful selection of vegetables fill my basket after a visit to the farmers market in Clermont|
I'm a fan of farmers markets. Part of my weekly routine includes going to either the Saturday morning market in Winter Garden, where I meet up with my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, or the Sunday market in Clermont, closer to home and therefore more convenient. Every now and then, I go to both.
Although purchasing produce is my main objective, people go to farmers markets for a variety of reasons.
Farmers markets are a great place to find unusual gift items, locate a source of farm-raised beef or purchase plants for the landscape. Some use the markets to seek out handmade crafts, custom artwork or locally produced food. Food-truck purveyors are on hand to provide an assortment of snacks while vendors set up booths to sell everything from organic peanut butter to handcrafted jewelry to gourmet dog biscuits. You can get knives sharpened in Clermont, take home a loaf of freshly baked bread or a bag of loose-leaf tea. One Winter Garden purveyor offers samples of unusual cheeses while another encourages browsers to taste the flavorful crackers his wife makes out of dried tomatoes, herbs and flax seeds.
Free entertainment is another reason people frequent farmers markets.
Usually, a musician — often a guitarist — provides passersby with a medley of melodious tunes. In Winter Garden, visitors can rest their feet in one of the many chairs lined up in front of the performance area, which happens to be located next to a female vendor who stays busy demonstrating a type of hula-hoop exercise equipment she sells. Customers can munch on homemade pastry and sip a cup of java while they listen to music, check out the hula-hoopers and watch the crowd go by.
|A guitarist entertains passersby while canine visitors exchange nose-to-nose greetings at a downtown market|
People watching is a popular occupation. With such a diverse group frequenting the markets, watching the crowd stroll by is a pleasant diversion from the workaday world.
Most farmers markets are located in downtown areas. A main street is often closed to cars for several blocks allowing pedestrians to walk without worry about vehicle interactions. This makes the venue popular with families, especially those with toddlers and babies in infant carriers or strollers. That also makes it well attended by bicyclists and pet owners.
Sometimes I think there are more dog owners proudly parading along behind their pets at the local outdoor market than any other category of shoppers. Something about a farmers market attracts a canine-loving crowd. Perhaps it's the opportunity to show off their well-behaved pets or simply to enjoy an outing amidst an admiring audience of children and adults. Kids certainly seem to appreciate the dogs' presence, often stopping mid-street to stoop down to pat the friendly animals.
The open-air ambiance of a farmers market is as appealing as its randomness. I never know from week to week who will show up. Although there are definite regulars, the inexpensive rent makes it affordable for small businesses to test the market without having to make a long-term commitment.
In addition to the farmers market itself, local shop owners in both Clermont and Winter Garden often extend store hours to take advantage of the crowd. This is particularly relevant at the Sunday market in Clermont, a day when most stores are normally closed.
One business that opted to be open on Sunday is the South Lake Animal League Thrift Shop. After browsing the booths set up along Montrose Street and stowing my produce purchases in the car, I make a point of popping into the thrift store to look for bargains. Meeting up with my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren is the draw that gets me to Winter Garden, but having a chance to peruse the racks of gently used clothing, most available for the bargain price of a dollar per item, attracts me to Clermont.
There are many reasons to explore farmers markets. Whether doing it to save money, buy local or simply as a way to enjoy some free outdoor entertainment, check out the offerings near you. In addition to Clermont's Sunday market and Winter Garden's Saturday venue, the farmers market in Tavares is on Friday and in Leesburg on Saturday. All are located in the downtown areas and open from morning to early afternoon.
For a complete listing of farmers markets throughout the state visit farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Florida.htm.