There's a lot to love living in Sarasota or Manatee County. The coastal setting. The outdoor waterfront living. The many recreational pursuits. And we must not forget the spectacular luxury housing.
However, one of the region's most overlooked benefits is the access to fresh, locally grown produce and an abundance of farmers' markets to buy it from.
Sarasota, Manatee, and their rural environs are home to a thriving agricultural community. Combined with neighboring Charlotte County, the Sarasota-Bradenton region boasts over 300,000 acres of farmland, with a healthy percentage dedicated to commercially and privately grown fruits and vegetables. Two of the most popular crops are oranges (of course) and tomatoes.
But the yields don't stop there. Thanks largely to the area's humid, subtropical climate — rarely does it ever freeze — the growing season covers the entire year and supports well over 100 different types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Not to be outdone, there are several fish, meat, and dairy farms to complement the earth-harvesting operations.
To experience it all, you could choose to tour one of the more than 40 local farms, 11 community gardens, or the two local agricultural museums (Crowley Museum and Nature Center and Manatee County Agricultural Museum).
However, to get a genuine taste of all the region has to offer, frequenting one of the more than 20 different farmer's markets is an absolute must.
Each market is a unique, unforgettable experience and offers patrons a chance to purchase locally-grown produce for their own farm-to-table lifestyle. Plus, it's a great feeling knowing you support local businesses and producers at the same time.
With your recyclable bags in tow, here's your guide to 10 of the best of Southwest Florida farmer's markets.
Old Main Street - 12th Street West
Every Saturday from October through May from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm
Downtown Bradenton is one of the most vibrant areas in the Southwest Florida region. Its Old Main Street corridor, a three-block retail area, shaded in trees and featuring restaurants and cafes, is the perfect venue for the Bradenton Farmers Market.
Also referred to as the Public Market, the seasonal event regularly features over 40 food, produce, and art vendors selling their harvests and showcasing their creations. The market also includes florists, clothing and jewelry, and home health vendors.
Anna Maria Island
107 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach
Every Sunday from November through April from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Anna Maria Island serves up a unique and relaxing lifestyle that's best captured with a leisurely stroll along Bridge Street, the island's main retail thoroughfare. While the street is permanently populated with great restaurants and eclectic shopping, the seasonal market brings in local produce and art vendors to give the coastal beach enclave a hometown feel. For those looking for priceless keepsakes, check the market's world-class photographers and sculptures.
Coquina Beach Market
Anna Maria Island
2650 Gulf Drive S, Bradenton Beach
Every Sunday from November to July and every Wednesday from December to April from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
It may not be the biggest market in terms of size and vendors, but the seasonal Coquina Beach Market makes up for it with plenty of fun, sun, and a festive beachside atmosphere. Fresh produce, arts and crafts, and apparel feature heavily, with much of the latter carrying a decidedly coastal island flair. Convenient, considering Anna Maria's white sandy beaches are mere steps from the market.
6000 Palmer Boulevard
Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm year-round
It's not your typical farmers' market, per se, but Detwiler's Farm Market warrants a mention as it's often the best place to find in-season locally grown produce. Beyond its fresh fruit and vegetables, Detwiler's also features a butcher shop, seafood counter, deli, general grocery, and bakery. If you need it fresh, and all other farmers' markets are closed for the day, Detwiler's is where to source local ingredients.
While the Palmer Blvd address is the flagship location, Detwiler's has four additional stores, including two more in Sarasota, one in Palmetto, and another in Venice.
Phillippi Estate Park - 5500 South Tamiami Trail
Every Wednesday from October to April from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm
Arguably one of the most underrated farmers' markets in the region, the Phillippi Farmhouse Market is a wonderful mid-week excursion during the fall and winter. Sarasota's only purely weekday market is also one of the more traditional. There are no part-time vendors, and all who sell at Phillippi are locked in for the entire season, with more than 50 growers, merchants, and artists in all.
Corner of Taylor Street and West Olympia Avenue
Every Saturday from October to April from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and from May to September from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm
For those who don't mind a bit of drive on a Saturday morning, the Punta Gorda Farmers Market is a worthy reward for your troubles. Just under an hour from the heart of Sarasota, the quaint little market has been recognized as the Best Small Market in Florida and a top 15 small market in the U.S.
Located in Punta Gorda's downtown, the market features a rotating list of more than 80 vendors, including locally grown produce, locally sourced meat and seafood, clothing, jewelry, and art.
1707 1st Street
Farmers market space is open year-round on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from May to October and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from November to April; all days are from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Okay, so technically not a farmers market, the Red Barn Flea Market is noteworthy enough to be mentioned on our list. After all, it's tough to ignore a marketplace that showcases over 600 vendors and covers over 145,000 square feet, 80,000 of which are indoors and air-conditioned (plus, it doesn't just have one dedicated farmer market space, but three).
Red Barn's market is more akin to a county fairground that happens to have an outdoor mall on site. It's a big place with a lot going on. The complex plays host to several retail areas, including its Plaza Shops (which house more traditional permanent storefronts), flea market booths, garage sales booths, two food courts, live music, and open-air farmer's markets. If you love an incredibly diverse shopping experience that includes some of Southwest Florida's best produce, Red Barn is the place for you.
Main Street - 1 N. Lemon Ave
Every Saturday from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm year-round, rain or shine
Arguably the region's most popular outdoor market, and a beloved city staple since 1979, the Sarasota Farmers Market has grown to include a massive selection of fresh produce, artisans, florists and gardeners, and a number of food and beverage vendors. In all, the Sarasota market features more than 75 vendors who set up shop in the heart of downtown.
Very much a community gathering, the market also features music at both ends of the booth setup and morning sunrise yoga at the Mermaid Fountain in Paul Thorpe Park. Such is the popularity of the Sarasota Farmers Market, Southern Living Magazine has named it one of the top such markets in the state.
5124 Ocean Blvd
Every Sunday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm year-round
Situated in Siesta Key's charming and vibrant gulf-side village, the island's namesake market has become a Sunday ritual for many local residents. It's a leisurely stroll to peruse the produce and artistic creations, then visit the village shops and cafes before heading to nearby Sunset Beach. There are over 25 vendors each week, and the market is one of the best places to see and purchase the works of local artists.
401 West Venice Avenue
Every Saturday from April to September from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and from October to March from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm
A less than 30-minute drive south of Sarasota, the Venice Farmers Market is worth the experience of seeing a market on the rise. Less than a decade old, the market is one of the region's best examples of how a small operation has a significant impact on supporting local producers and merchants. More than 40 vendors take part each week.
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