BRADENTON -- Like the seeds of a vegetable, the success of a farmer's market often depends on the care given to nurture its successful growth.
The Bradenton Downtown Farmer's Market begins anew at 9 a.m. Oct. 4. Like many other markets, its popularity has fluctuated over the years, at times uprooted from existence. But like a ray of sunshine, the Bradenton market is being revitalized through the efforts of Realize Bradenton.
Realize Bradenton specializes in promoting city events like the market, which has grown in the past couple years. Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham said the market is designed to promote a healthy body and mind of the entire community.
"Realize Bradenton brings a commitment to promote a healthy community, and we do that through the programs we introduce at the market," said Isham. "We definitely put a spin on education and believe that a community is healthy because of the combination of nutrition, exercise, arts and literacy."
As part of that philosophy, the market will feature a community tent this year with educational opportunities for the entire family, including an interactive creative learning station presented by Manatee Libraries on the fourth Saturday of every month.
At the heart of the market is the fresh, locally grown produce and other food. Returning to the market are two of its staples: Greens on the Gro hydroponically grows its produce with quality drinking water; and Sheppard Farms, considered one of the oldest farms in the state, also returns.
First-time vendors joining the market include Anna's Seafood, Green Garden Chef, Sugar Cubed Bakery and Deep South Farms, a vendor featuring local meat and eggs. Also joining the market is Geraldson Community Farm, which grows certified organic produce.
"Chef at the Market" returns this year with Village of the Arts Chef Jim Copening, of Arts and Eats, kicking off the event on opening day. Market-goers can follow Copening as he shops for local produce at 9 a.m. and then watch him use those products step-by-step while cooking his Burmese breakfast dish. Chef Guy Cannata, of Ortygia, also in the Village of the Arts, will showcase his skills Oct. 11.
New this year will be "Foodies at the Market" every fourth Saturday of the month. It's similar to the "Chef at the Market" demonstration, but will feature local residents who just love to cook. Manatee County Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jacki Dezelski will kick off the new program.
In partnership with the Del Couch Music Education Foundation, live entertainment will return to the market with Kristopher James performing on opening day with his blend of folk/Americana music.
Isham said the market helps Realize Bradenton reach another goal in promoting a "buy local" philosophy, and helps local businesses reach new customers while promoting community.
"With our downtown market, you are connecting with people," said Isham. "It really is a place where the community connects and the bottom line for Realize Bradenton is to bring people together."
Jeanne's Bistro & Coffee Shop owner Jeanne Wilson said the market season is a big boost for downtown businesses and is done "with just the right community spirit."
October is Hunger Awareness Month, and market-goers will be asked to bring a non-perishable food item to the market's information booth in support of Meals On Wheels Plus of Manatee County. Parking is free and dogs on leashes are welcome. Visit bradentonfarmersmarket.com.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014