My neck of the woods suddenly is an epicenter of the local food movement. Well, that may be an overstatement, but consider this: Winter Springs recently got its first farm-to-table restaurant; The Fresh Market will open in two weeks; and my favorite new spot, a new 35-acre farmers market just opened with a petting farm. This last development has neighbors buzzing most.
When Good Neighbors Farmers Market opened the first Saturday of 2014, it seemed everyone in the neighborhood came to check it out. It’s no wonder. The land on which it sits has intrigued me for years. Majestic oaks have shaded this farmland in the middle of a suburb. I would drive by it often and peer through the trees to see an occasional steer or piece of farm equipment. And then suddenly the owners were announcing the Farmers Market on Facebook with 70 vendors and a petting farm!
The first Saturday, organizers reported that 2,500 people showed up. Ticket collectors at the front entrance collected $2 per person. Charging admission has raised a few eyebrows for those who just want to shop. It’s the only negative comments about the market I’ve heard so far.
At the front gate, a display of farm equipment sets the mood. Vendors’ booths are spread out comfortably on the pine needle floor under the trees. A barn with farm stalls stands to the left. In the back are some food trucks, with several large picnic tables nearby. The relaxed atmosphere is both a market and Saturday morning getaway. I have begun a new weekly ritual to ride my bike to the market.
The conventional farmers (those that use pesticides) occupy the larger tables in front while the organic farmers occupy the barn. No signs say that; you have to ask the farmers about their growing practices. The barn has other jewels — local dairy products such as fresh butter, raw milk and eggs, and a man who makes furniture out of reclaimed wood from barns.
My go-to vendors are Rest Haven hydroponic produce from Geneva; R&B Farm from Melbourne; Bee My Honey (which also has fresh eggs) from Oviedo; Yalaha Bakery from Lake County; Wild Ocean Seafood Market from Port Canaveral; and Blessed Bean coffee roasted in Casselberry. I also like Pure Choice Organics natural soap made by Geraldin and Cheryl Augusma in west Orlando. New booths pop up every week, but these I count on weekly.
The petting farm is on the north side of the property and worth a short walk to see it. The farm animals are heritage breeds and have nice new pens.
My guess is that the $2 gate price is subsidizing the petting farm. It will be interesting to see if the owners drop the fee to shop and charge only for the petting farm. Either way, I’m going to the market every week; the atmosphere is a good start to the weekend.
Good Neighbors Farmers Market, 1101 Lloyds Lane, Oviedo, is open 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every Saturday. Its Facebook page is updated regularly.