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Farmer's market holds grand opening

ELLENTON — Sharon Grubis, an early visitor to the new Ellenton Farmer’s Market, was thrilled to purchase a cantaloupe for $1 and a package of cherry tomatoes for $1.

She typically pays $2.50 a piece at a local grocery store for produce that is not as fresh, she said.

“I came for the fresh vegetables that are less expensive than the grocery stores,” said the Parrish resident.

The Ellenton Farmer’s Market, which is in the parking lot of the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, saw its first customers Saturday morning. The market is a “green” market and sells primarily organic, naturally-grown produce and environmentally-sensitive products, according to Phil Pagano, manager of the market.

The main focus is farmer products produced within the area, he said.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Pagano. “It supports the farmer that grew it. It supports their family and they still discount it for a great price.”

But the Ellenton Farmer’s Market was not just about plants and produce. The market will also include an Internet café on a patio next to the ice arena where market patrons can enjoy coffee, foods and free wireless internet. The Eco Village will be a place where vendors of green building products and services can showcase and sell their wares.

No other farmer’s market in the country has an Eco Village, said Pagano.

“Being a green market, we’re also trying to educate people,” he said. “I think it will be nice.”

Between metropolitan areas including Bradenton, Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg, the farmer’s market is just off Interstate 75, which will be a big factor in its success, said Pagano.

“There are a lot of people in the area that are looking for a place to go,” he said. “I think the local community is glad it’s here.”

Marvin Kaplan, owner of the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, said he sees the farmer’s market as being a good thing for the community.

“We’re in the heart of green country,” he said. “They grow a lot of the vegetables right here. People prefer to buy their vegetables here.”

Donna Yoder, owner of The Bread Place from Sarasota, credited the location for her good sales. Although she usually does festivals as opposed to farmer’s markets, she brought about 55 different breads to sell, including Black Forest rye, and had already sold about half of her inventory.

“This area really needed a farmer’s market,” she said.

Randy True of True Family Farms, a first timer in the farmer’s market scene, was pleased with the turnout. A hydroponic organic vegetable grower from Ellenton, he had just about sold out of his cherry tomatoes by 10 a.m. His sweet corn was already gone.

“We’re doing a nice brisk business,” True said between customers. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

“Lightning Jack” McGivern, a steel drum player, serenaded customers as they perused the variety of stands.

Hal and Helen Pelta were very happy about the Ellenton Farmer’s Market because they live just down the road. They had bought some bread, jelly, vegetables and a melon.

“It’s very nice,” said Helen Pelta. “There’s a wide variety of produce.”

Hal Pelta was admiring the orchids at Natures Way Water Gardens, a Bradenton vendor.

“It may not be something we’d buy today, but we’ll be back,” he said.

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