LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch is getting its farmers market back today.
Following a successful return last fall after a three-year hiatus, visitors to Lakewood Ranch's Main Street on Saturday will once again be able to shop from local and regional vendors selling farm-fresh produce, wild-caught seafood, herbs, spices, sauces, honey, cheeses, imported fashions and more.
Main Street Market at Lakewood Ranch, 8100 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., will open for business from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. every fourth Saturday of each month until May -- possibly longer, according to owner Jennifer McCafferty, of Jen's Market Inc., a Hillsborough County company that operates three other farmers markets in the Tampa Bay area.
McCafferty leased space last September along the storefronts and restaurants of Main Street, betting that the community would welcome the return of an outdoor market, which reportedly doubled in size as the year came to a close.
"All our venues are different types but Main Street makes for a nice atmosphere. Our vendors love the area and being around all the merchants and restaurants," McCafferty said.
This year, the pet-friendly Main Street Market at Lakewood Ranch will feature two new vendors: Stamper Cheese, artisan, small-batch cheese makers from Wisconsin; and farm-fresh eggs from Circle 6 Farm & Ranch in Duette.
After years of pleasing fans at farmers markets in Chicago, Stamper Cheese is planting roots in Florida where many Midwesterners spend their winters.
"I'm a cheesemonger in paradise," said Rich Olsen of Stamper Cheese, referring to Florida's adopted son Jimmy Buffet. Olsen says he can now offer customers more types of cheese since Wisconsin has strict license procedures for production and sale.
"So now we make and can offer a variety of herbed Monterey Jacks, a chipotle cheddar, an amazing cheddar spread rolled in crushed pistachios, a young applewood-smoked gouda, and of course, cheddar cheese curds along with a handful of other artisanal cheeses," Olsen added.
In addition to strolling and shopping the market, songwriter Steve Arvey will perform on his acoustic guitar.
McCafferty said there's also a possibility that Lakewood Ranch will have a farmers market this summer as well.
"It's a great way for active people to shop locally and enjoy getting out, walking around visiting with neighbors and friends."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter