LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch’s farmers markets are heading in different directions next month.
Lakewood Ranch Main Street’s annual farmers market, usually held Saturdays from November through April, will not re-open for the winter season as expected.
The farmers market across Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, in San Marco Plaza, however, will remain in business each Friday morning. The market, which currently has about 30 regular vendors, will continue running from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, at the plaza, 8215 Natures Way, Lakewood Ranch.
Lakewood Ranch Main Street Property Manager Julia DeCastro said the farmers market on Main Street will not open next month because of a lack of sponsorship, vendors and public attendance.
“It’s not something we want to walk way from,” DeCastro said. “Hopefully, next year we can re-look at it. (We really need the) community to support the local stores here for them to survive and be successful.”
DeCastro said for the last three years she has had trouble securing sponsorships for the event, which sold only food-related products such as honey, fresh salsa and other items. Seasonal costs associated with marketing, paying a market manager and other expenses totaled between $9,000 and $12,000, she said.
Additionally, the market was competing directly for both customers and vendors with the Sarasota Farmers Market in downtown Sarasota, which was established in 1979.
Organizers of the farmers market in San Marco Plaza say they need continued community support for the market to remain viable, as well, but they are eagerly pushing forward into the busier winter season.
The market this month expanded its hours slightly, remaining open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Fridays; currently, about 30 vendors are on site each week. Offerings include everything from fresh produce and baked goods to herbs, handcrafts, candles and other products.
The Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch and Safe Haven Animal Rescue also have animals on site for adoption, and there is live music for the duration of the event.
Market Manager Melissa Enders said she hopes to have 50 vendors, including ones for free-range eggs and beef, on site by December.
“We’re just going to get bigger and better,” Enders said. “We’ve pushed through the summer, but we need the support of the community. We need more people to come.”
Enders said market vendors pay $100 per month for their space, and she eventually hopes to secure sponsorships so the venue can do more marketing and charitable events.
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