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Support local growers while enjoying fresh produce

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farmerBy Penny Fletcher

Wouldn’t it be great to know the fruits and vegetables you’re consuming aren’t shot full of chemicals to hold their color and give them a longer shelf life?

What if you knew Mr. Brown from Plant City grew the berries on your table and Mr. Smith from Pasco County had planted and tended all the squash, eggplant and salad greens?  

What if every tomato you sunk your teeth into, year round, was Ruskin grown?

Well, as of December 11, South County residents can assure themselves of these things while boosting local grower’s business by shopping at a new Farmer’s Market which will be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon

The Farmer’s Market will be held in the parking lot of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, on the corner of State Road 674 and 9th Street S.E. in Ruskin as one of the ways the church plans to make the money needed to refurbish the building which has been in existence at that location since the early 1960s.

“We wanted to do something to enable us to paint and fix up our sanctuary and make some much-needed repairs,” said Annie Hunter, an Apollo Beach resident and church song leader who is working hard on the Farmer’s Market Committee.

But the job of locating and signing up the growers of fruits, vegetables and citrus has fallen to Jayna Hamel who runs Elsberry Farms Nursery on the corner of Big Bend Road and U.S. 41 in Apollo Beach. Jayna and her husband Bernie, a longtime employee of Plants of Ruskin, know the area’s growers.farmers2

“When you buy fruits and vegetables in the stores they’ve been treated for color and shelf life,” Jayna explained. “We’ll know where ours come from, and how they’ve been grown. We’re only going to deal with locals, maybe as far away as the surrounding counties but no farther, so everything will be backyard garden fresh.”

Jayna says she hopes to gather enough growers to keep the market going year round with seasonal stock.

“There’s such an impact on fresh food’s nutritional value when it’s treated for the long-haul. Not to mention the emissions,” she added.

Jayna has already started tomato plants and green peppers, some of which are growing eight to ten on a vine. She is seeking farmers with peas, and pole beans, eggplant and all other locally-grown produce and fruits.

Both Jayna and Bernie come from farming families and have also formally studied agriculture.

“We’ll have spices in pots you can take home and grow in your kitchen too,” she said, pointing to the basil she has started herself.

She also called my attention to one of her “special brands” of tomato, that is called “Mortgage Lifter” because the first year after the man invented it put it on the market he paid off his mortgage, she said.

Jayna has started a Web site www.backyard-produce.com but it is still under construction.

 

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Penny Fletcher
Jayna Hamel shows off her tomato plants at Elsberry Farms Nursery on the corner of Big Bend Road and U.S. 41 in Apollo Beach. Hamel is seeking local produce growers to sell their fruits and vegetables at a new Farmer’s Market which will be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon starting Dec. 11 in the parking lot of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church on the corner of State Road 674 and 9th St. SE in Ruskin. Crafters and other artists are also welcome to rent space to sell their wares.

Growers who are interested in becoming a part of the Farmer’s Market are encouraged to email her at bypapollobeach@gmail.com or go on FaceBook and put Back Yard Produce in the search bar. She may also be reached at (813) 466-9585.

Meanwhile, Annie is seeking crafters to rent parking lot spaces at $20 apiece during the hours the market is open.

“Every weekend we see all these people selling things along the sides of the roads, which is illegal,” she said. “We’re going to see that they get applications to come on board so that would make them legal. I think it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Annie’s preference for contact by crafters or other sellers is email at anniemal1@verizon.net but she may also be reached at (813) 645-8366.

 

 

 

       

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