Those driving into the parking lot of Silver Star East on Feb. 4 were treated to more than just a good meal.
Silver Star East has become home to the Myakka Co-op, an organization of artisans and craftsmen that provides a community fair once per month.
Local artisans sell anything from jewelry to hand-crafted wreaths to homemade jams and more.
Myakka City's Lynn Meder, who founded the co-op, said she wanted to start the co-op not only because she wanted somewhere to sell her work but also as a way for the community to come together.
"I found there's so many people out here with talent and no place to really showcase it," Meder said. "Also because everyone's so spread apart, it's so rural, you don't get a chance to talk to each other about current events or what's happening in Myakka with all the growth. This gets them talking and we become more of a close-knit community."
Besides supporting local artists and vendors, the co-op gives Myakka City animal nonprofits, including Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary and the Lemur Conservation Foundation, an opportunity to educate people about what their nonprofits do.
Other animal nonprofits that benefit from the co-op include Myakka Elephant Ranch, Dante's Den and Sarasota Parrot Conservatory.
"We have a lot of hidden gems in Myakka," Meder said.
All of the animal nonprofits were hit hard by Hurricane Ian in September, and many are still working to recover.
Lisa Burns, who runs Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary, said the nonprofit had $60,000 in damage from the hurricane. She said the nonprofit still needs about $25,000 to finish repairs.
Burns hopes being at the co-op will give the nonprofit an opportunity to educate people on what they do and potentially to get new volunteers.
She has appreciated the support of the co-op and Silver Star East.
"It's neighbors supporting neighbors, and that's exactly what we need," Burns said. "People don't realize that Myakka is so big. We range from Manatee County to Sarasota County, but we all come together to try to help each other."
Shannon Frank, a primate keeper with the Lemur Conservation Foundation, said the co-op is a great way to connect with the community.
"I feel like we're kind of tucked away in Myakka and not a lot of people know about us," she said. "We want to spread the word of our conservation to as many people as possible."
Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.