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East County Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021 6 months ago

Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch makes its move to Waterside Place

Vendors, organizers excited about the Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch moving to Waterside Place.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Eric Swanson didn't hesitate when asked if he was excited about the Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch moving Nov. 7 to the new Waterside Place entertainment hub.

Swanson, whose business is based in Tampa, was selling his Swanson Soapworks products Oct. 24 at the market's current site in the parking lot of Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.

"It's going to be a much better location," Swanson said of Waterside Place. "That's going to be a destination. This is a parking lot."

The market has been doing nicely in the parking lot of the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, but when this variation of the market began in 2017 at the Sarasota Polo Club (on Wednesdays), the end goal was to build the market for Waterside Place.

"It was something we created," said Lakewood Ranch Communities' Monaca Onstad, the director of communities. "We had a vision but we knew we had to earn the right to grow. That first market had 14 vendors."

Other smaller versions of a farmers market had surfaced at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch over the years, but Onstad started building the current version as a way to enrich the life of the local residents, who had mentioned to her that they would love to have a truly local farmers market.

The Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch currently has about 60 vendors and went this past summer from a seasonal market (November to April) to a year-round event.

When the market transfers to Waterside Place, taking up space all along Lakefront Boulevard and Kingfisher Lake, more than 80 vendors will line the street.

"We need to figure out how to put them all in," Onstad said.

Along with more space for the vendors and customers, the market will have additional seating, with umbrellas, so those strolling the market can enjoy their bounty with a little shade. Then, most of the various shops, offices and restaurants will begin to open toward the spring.

"(The hospital parking lot) has been a good location for us, but people are going to have better shopping and they will be right next to the water," said Tarpon Springs' Barbara Harrison, who was selling eucalyptus products out of her Drift Away booth. "The management here is super."

Chef Efrain Martinez of Venus' Chef Ef says he will do well wherever the farmers market is located because he sells a unique product.

Chef Efrain Martinez of Venus' Chef Ef said he wasn't worried about changing to Waterside Place.

"I go with the wind," he said with a laugh while tending to his paella.  "I don't worry. I have a traditional dish of Spain that dates back to the year 800. I have something no one else has."

Ida VanDamme, the farm manager of Honeyside Farms of Parrish, said she also has something no one else at the market will offer — organic produce. 

Honeyside Farms also will offer organic veggie boxes that people can pick up at the market.

VanDamme doesn't expect the opening weeks of the market to be slow while people are adjusting to the new location.

"(Lakewood Ranch Communities) is doing a great job of promoting it," she said.

The Lakewood Ranch Medical Group on Oct. 25 opened the first business office at Waterside Place with other businesses currently finishing build-outs with expectations to begin opening in November and December. Supply chain issues have delayed construction.

Two weeks before the farmers market was set to make its debut, Lakeside Drive still needed some finishing work.

Eric Swanson of Swanson Soapworks said Waterside Place will be a destination that will attract patrons.

"They are doing a final pave of the street," Onstad said. "I meet with the construction team weekly. The team tells me we are good."

Onstad said the Farmers Market will stick to a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot on Sundays. Programming will be added and tweaked as feedback comes back from the patrons. Music, chef demonstrations and children's programs are among the many offerings that will evolve.

Besides the Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch, the weekly offering of Ranch Nights will be held at Waterside Place starting Nov. 10. Ranch Nights previously was held at the Sarasota Polo Club.

Onstad said she has a great pride when it comes to the farmers market.

"We are helping 75 to 90 small business owners succeed," she said. "And look at this place. It is a gorgeous location."

Ida VanDamme, the farm manager of Honeyside Farms of Parrish, will be offering organic produce.
Tarpon Springs' Barbara Harrison doesn't mind driving a bit farther to sell her Drift Away eucalyptus products.


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