Island farmer’s market returns in January under new ownership

jean-betsyBY MARCY SHORTUSE – The island’s farmer’s market will return in January, 2017 to the Wheeler Road Ball Field, but new faces will be running the ship. Jean Baer and Betsy Ventura of Local Roots, a company with seven other Lee County farmer’s markets, will be leading the way into a healthy new year.

The first Boca Grande Farmer’s Market was run by Shawn Lee Lange, who has started her own businesses that include a virtual, online farmer’s market. Paired with her new delivery service called Gophers Groceries and Food Delivery Services, she will still be bringing healthy food into people’s homes, just in a more direct manner.

Lee County Procurement held a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13 to discuss the bidders on the farmer’s market project. In all, two placed a bid. Those companies include Big Cheese and Local Roots.

Jean and Betsy are looking forward to bringing their version of a farmer’s market to Boca Grande, but haven’t yet decided what they will call it. They praised Lange for her effort in beginning the farmer’s market here on the island, and hope to take what she already started and tweak it with their own vendors and ideas.

“We’ve been well-received by the residents so far,” Jean said. “Shawna has done a great job, and we hope to take what she’s done and maybe expand her idea.”

This will still be a “green only” market, meaning only food will be sold. Lee County placed regulations on the Boca Grande Farmer’s Market because it is held on county property, and the county has strict regulation as to what the definition of a farmer’s market is.

Jean and Betsy started out on Sanibel with their first market, and Jean said she knows how important such a weekly event is to a small little island. They have been Lee County residents for 30 years and started their business in 2008.

What started in Sanibel soon began to spread, and now the pair have farmer’s markets at Jet Blue Stadium in Fort Myers, Coconut Point Mall in Estero, Lakes Park on Gladiolus in Fort Myers, The Promenade in Bonita Springs, Fort Myers’ River District in Centennial Park, downtown Fort Myers on 1st Street and the FSW campus on College Parkway.