The atmosphere was laid-back and friendly at the first Phillippi Farmhouse Market of the season Wednesday. Vendors said hello to each other and introduced themselves to newcomers. The smell of fresh-baked bread and enticing aromas from a barbecue stand wafted through the air. In the backdrop, visitors walked to some of the historical buildings of the Phillippi Estate.
John Snyder, owner of LuLu’s Fresh Cut Flowers, has been a vendor at the market since its beginning. It’s the people that bring him back every year, he said.
“I have regular customers, and I’ve made new friends,” Snyder said. “You get to socialize.”
The pace of this market is less hectic and more relaxed, he said.
The Wednesday market opened in 2010, and it’s currently the only farmers market in Sarasota that runs during the week. The market operates in season, from October through April. Since its inception, it’s grown from 19 vendors to anywhere from 30 to 50 each week; each pays $25 per week for space at the market.
When the market was formed, the founders decided that money leftover after the expenses of running it should be donated to a worthy cause. The obvious choice was the farmhouse that sits on the property. It was the first building erected on the Phillippi Creek Estate.
“It’s unique — it’s the reason we had money to donate,” Whitehouse said.
After four seasons of saving, the Phillippi Farmhouse Market raised $60,767.10 to help fund the restoration of the Phillippi Estate farmhouse.
The outside of the farmhouse was renovated in 2010. The next step of the project is to go inside and renovate the interior’s electricity, plumbing and insulation, said Patty Gergen, a manager with Sarasota County Parks and Recreation.
When the interior is finished, she said, the county hopes to set up some educational displays inside for the public to view.
Gergen said the interior renovation project has been designed and estimated it requires at least $100,000 to be completed. The donation won’t fund the whole project.
“It won’t finish the job, but it’s a huge start,” Gergen said. “It’s appreciated. We’ll get as much done as we can.”
The 5,000-square-foot market is run entirely by volunteers, from coordinators to staff who run the welcome tent each Wednesday.
“We’re more than a farmers market,” said Fred Whitehouse, the treasurer for the Phillippi Farmhouse Market. “It’s an outing.”
The vendor list includes the expected vegetable and bread stands and pie makers, but also includes specialists such as knife sharpeners, artists and soap makers.
Pat Webber, another original vendor, sells handmade fabric table runners, aprons and T-shirts with nature prints at her stand. The friendliness and laid-back feeling of the market make it special, she said.
She is familiar with many of the people who attend it.
“It’s like a family,” Webber said.
Besides the variety, the market is dog-friendly, offers free parking and usually has live music. At the market the week before Halloween, it holds a costume contest for pets, sponsored in part by the Humane Society of Sarasota County.
“It’s a happy time,” Whitehouse said. “Everyone’s there for something.”
As for its side project, the farmhouse’s 100-year anniversary is coming up in 2016, and The Phillippi Farmhouse Market is hoping the renovations will be complete in time to celebrate.
“We’re going to have a big party,” said Priscilla Brown, a program coordinator for Phillippi Estate Park, told the County Commission at its Sept. 24 meeting. “And you’re all invited.”
History of the farmhouse
• The farmhouse was declared a historic structure on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
• The farmhouse housed the farming and household staff for Edson Keith’s estate.
• The exterior was renovated in 2010.