Piece by piece, Monaca Onstad and her team carefully assembled all the elements of The Market at Lakewood Ranch in recent months, essentially reinventing the farmers market.
This week, The Market debuts at an unusual time on an unusual day at an unusual place.
That would be 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sarasota Polo Club grounds, 8201 Polo Club Lane at Lakewood Ranch.
Onstad, director of community relations for Lakewood Ranch, brings real passion and a farming background to the task of establishing a new farmers market. She grew up on a family farm and has gotten her hands dirty plenty of times with everything from plowing fields and planting crops to cleaning hog pens.
With The Market, she wanted to bring fresh, local organic produce to consumers and provide education about how food is grown, where it comes from and how to prepare it.
The first step was establishing a subscriber-based agriculture partnership with Worden Farms. Would there be enough households willing to pay $29 a week to make the program viable?
The answer was yes.
In return for their subscriptions, households will be able to pick up a box of freshly grown produce each Wednesday – starting this week – through April 18 on the grounds of the polo club.
Each week, the contents of the box, containing an assortment of greens, herbs, root vegetables and more, will change, depending on what’s maturing in the fields.
Among the subscribers are Lakewood Ranch’s two country clubs, which will be using Worden produce, SMR spokeswoman Lisa Barnott said.
The next step was to recruit compatible vendors. When the market opens Wednesday, there will be more than 15 selling seafood, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, bread, butter, cold-pressed juices, jams, pickles, fresh pasta, ready-to-eat foods, honey, truffle oils, mushrooms, popcorn and sea salt.
“The idea is that you can come to the market and get everything that you need to go home and cook supper that night,” Onstad said.
We want people – both adults and children – to understand, and develop closer ties to where our food comes from. Through this market experience, neighbors will get to connect with each other, with their food and with the farmers.
Monaca Onstad, director of community relations for Lakewood Ranch
Visitors to the market also will be able to sample wine and buy it by the bottle or the case, listen to live music by the Trevor and Kristie Duo, and watch a culinary demonstration by chef Roushan Avila of the Culinary Innovation Lab at USF Sarasota-Manatee.
“He will be taking ingredients from the market and preparing a meal live,” Onstad said.
Each week, The Market will feature a cooking demonstration by a different chef.
“They will be promoting how you can eat seasonally,” Onstad said.
Other activities planned include a yoga demonstration and a kids corner by Little Geniuses.
“We want to get the kids involved in learning where the food comes from,” Onstad said.
Although the subscription period has closed for the Worden Farm’s veggie boxes, there will be a limited number of boxes available for purchase by non-subscribers.
Also offered at the market: lotions, candles and soaps. And a knife sharpener.
“It really goes back to our heritage as a ranch and our roots in agriculture,” Onstad said. “We want people – both adults and children – to understand and develop closer ties to where our food comes from. Through this market experience, neighbors will get to connect with each other, with their food and with the farmers.”
Tim Clarkson of Grove Ladder Farm is among the vendors participating in The Market.
Grove Ladder Farm is a 10-acre pasture-based livestock farm in East Sarasota County, producing non-GMO, soy-free, pasture raised chickens and ducks.
Grove Ladder will be bringing chicken and duck eggs, along with fresh chickens and grass-fed beef to the farmers market.
“I think it’s perfect for many reasons. It’s a perfect location and time of day. It’s good for all the people involved,” Clarkson said.
The Market will spotlight a different nonprofit each week, starting with Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee County. Market visitors are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item to donate.
“We will continue to create a vibrant market experience,” Onstad said, “but people need to come out and patronize the merchants we’ve brought together.”
For more information visit lakewoodranch.com/themarket.