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Bigger, better Bradenton farmers’ market returns Oct. 1

The downtown Bradenton farmers’ market opens for the 2016-2017 season on Oct. 1 and is open every Saturday through May 27.
The downtown Bradenton farmers’ market opens for the 2016-2017 season on Oct. 1 and is open every Saturday through May 27. Provided photo

I grew up in Illinois, where summer was my favorite time of year because the farmers’ market returned. I like shopping outside and supporting locals instead of shoveling my hard-earned money into the pockets of supermarket corporations. Then I moved to Florida, where the local farmers’ market is an 8-month affair. I was like, “Yeah, I can handle this.”

The 2016-2017 season of the downtown Bradenton farmers’ market returns on Saturday with all of the fresh produce, seafood, poultry, beef and breads you could want, and then some. The market closes down Old Main Street (12th Street West) between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. each Saturday between Oct. 1 and May 27.

The Bradenton farmers’ market is open every Saturday between Oct. 1 and May 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton

This year people can shop using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program program. The SNAP Bonus Bucks program is available for the purchase of fresh produce, seafood, poultry, beef and other foods such as bread, honey, cheese, olive oil, and herbs, up to $20, according to a release from Realize Bradenton.

“We designed this grant to be user-friendly, so patrons using SNAP do not need to sign up or apply,” Jeremy Piper, communications manager for Realize Bradenton, said in an email. “Anyone using SNAP at the market simply needs to visit the Farmers’ Market SNAP booth, located near Lou’s Diner on Old Main Street, to swipe their EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card in exchange for Market Bucks, which may be used to purchase fresh produce, seafood, poultry, beef and other foods.”

Through the grant, patrons receive Bonus Bucks up to $20. For example, if you use your SNAP EBT card to purchase $20 in Market Bucks, you’ll receive $40 in Market Bucks.

The SNAP Bonus Bucks are available once every Saturday to anyone using EBT through the 2016-2017 season until the grant is exhausted, Piper said.

I’m over the moon to see that SNAP is accepted at our farmers’ market. So often I’ve heard or read about perceptions that organic or healthy food is too expensive – or at least more expensive – than grabbing something off of the dollar menu at a fast-food joint. This assertion is supported by several studies (like this one out of the Harvard School of Public Health, for example), but saying eating an unhealthy diet is cheaper than eating a healthy diet depends on how you define cost.

Most of the studies conclude that, yes, preparing and buying fresh produce often takes more time and money, but the health benefits of spending a little more cash and eating healthy far outweigh the health costs of eating pre-prepared and packaged foods. It’s good to see that Realize Bradenton recognizes buying healthy food at an affordable price is an issue for some people and families and took a step to mitigate it.

The market also added a Kids’ Corner with activities for little ones on the first Saturday of each month and the Rainbow Kitchen, which provides food demonstrations and tastings.

The market is produced and promoted by Realize Bradenton, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a “more vibrant, attractive and prosperous Bradenton area for residents, visitors and businesses.” Realize Bradenton obtained a $2,500 grant that allows for the use of SNAP EBT cards.

Farmers’ market opening day activities include:

Mainly Art: Dozens of local artists and craftspeople displaying and selling their creations. Art, crafts and live music are available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on 4th Avenue West where it connects with the weekly Bradenton Farmers’ Market on Old Main Street. Following opening day, Mainly Art will continue every third Saturday of each month until the end of May.

Chef at the Market: Chef Dave Shiplett of Birdrock Taco Shack and Dana Johnson of Sugar Cubed Bakery will cook together and create a delicious meal to sample. Chefs will shop the market around 9:30 a.m. and conduct a cooking demonstration at 10 a.m. on the corner of Old Main Street and 4th Avenue West.

Kids’ Corner: Fun 4 SRQ Kids will have a booth where children can decorate a reusable shopping bag to bring with them each time they visit the market, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children can enjoy new activities at Kids’ Corner every first Saturday of each month.

Rainbow Kitchen: Food demonstrations and tastings using a rainbow of fresh foods, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rainbow Kitchen is presented by Manatee County Family Nutrition Program’s SNAP-Ed, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education in Florida.

Live Music: Trevor Bystrom Duo will perform a variety of music on the south block and Paige Merriman, an emerging artist, will perform at Mainly Art. Live music is scheduled for each Saturday until the end of May.

Other ongoing activities include: Manatee County Master Gardeners on the first Saturday of the month, Florida Department of Health activities on the second Saturday of the month, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) health screenings for blood pressure and diabetes on the third Saturday of the month and Creative Learning Stations, presented by the Central Manatee Library, on the fourth Saturday of the month.

For a complete list of activities, for more information on the farmers’ market to apply for a vendor spot, visit http://www.bradentonfarmersmarket.com/.

The 2016-2017 sponsors of the Bradenton Farmers’ Market include the Bradenton Herald, the Downtown Development Authority, Florida Blue, Manatee Community Federal Credit Union and Mosaic.

Janelle O’Dea: 941-745-7095, @jayohday

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