The Sanibel Farmer’s Market, established in 2008, has been tickling islanders taste buds with its delicious fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses and more for nearly 14 years. The market, located at The Sanibel City Hall, 800 Dunlop Road, is run by Betsy Ventura and Jean Baer, owners of Local Roots, which operates ten Lee County Farmers’ Markets. The Sanibel Farmer’s Market is open every Sunday from Oct. 3 through May 29 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is something for everyone, from fresh fruits and vegetables, honey and cut flowers, to meats, seafood, prepared meals, cupcakes, bagels, fresh guacamole, native plants and more.
Annually, the Market coordinates with FISH OF SANCAP to provide fresh products to the islands’ only Food Pantry. At the recommendation of Betsy and Jean, vendors pack boxes of unsold fruits, vegetables and goodies for the FISH food pantry. At the end of every market Sunday, FISH volunteers pick-up, sort and stock donated items at the Food Pantry, located at 2430 Periwinkle Way. Participating vendors that donate to FISH include European Bakery, operated by the Foerschner Family; Straight From NY York Bagels, operated by the Sexton Family and Aurora’s Produce, operated by the Zuniga family.
The FISH Food Pantry is a vital service for many households, and FISH receives requests for assistance daily from island residents and workers. Once qualified by FISH, individuals are able to shop for nutritious supplemental grocery items to sustain their family’s food needs. The FISH Food Pantry is open Monday through Friday from 10a–3:45p. Each year, the organization distributes hundreds of thousands of pounds of food through the pantry program.
New this year, FISH and various Farmer’s Market vendors worked together to provide a fall themed Smile Box to on island seniors. Vendors donated and provided reduced cost items such as soap, pears, mini pumpkins, bread, candles, honey, jam, beet and okra chips, all tucked into a Farmer’s Market reusable bag. The Smile Box program at FISH was established to brighten the day of island seniors. The inspiration for the boxes comes from the subscription box trend where participants receive boxes of products and goodies regularly by mail. The boxes, often themed toward time of year, contain gifts, projects and activities for recipients to do throughout the month, household items, crafts and sometimes a sweet treat. Last month, a Farmer’s Market / Welcome Fall Harvest theme was offered and the Sanibel Farmer’s Market stepped in to contribute items. Notes a Smile Box recipient, “Thank you so much for the nice bags of autumnal surprises for me. The gifts are delightful. Being from Iowa, and not able to travel to New England as I used to do because of COVID, I am really missing Fall this year. Your gifts really help bring some Fall joy to my life!” Participating vendors included Paradise Candle and Soap Co.; House of Nuts; Aurora’s Produce; Euro Bakery Stand; and Jean and Betsy’s Sanibel Farmer’s Market booth.
“FISH and our neighbors greatly appreciate the generosity of the Farmer’s Market. We cannot thank Betsy, Jean and the generous vendors enough for helping supply healthy choices for those that use our Pantry, and again for suppling items for our Smile Boxes,” says Maria Espinoza, Assistant Executive Director, FISH. “The continued support from the Farmer’s Market and their eagerness to help is an integral part of our success. We also are so appreciative of our volunteer teams who pick up from the market and organize our food pantry on Sunday afternoons. We could not provide these wonderful products to our community without their help.”
The Sanibel market is welcoming open-air environment that is spread out to create social distancing. Hand sanitizer is available everywhere, and visitors are asked not to gather due to the ongoing pandemic. In addition, shoppers are encouraged to bring any dry and canned foods to the market booth or give a monetary amount on Sundays that will be donated each week to FISH of SANCAP. For more information, visit online at http://buylocallee.com.
For additional information on the FISH organization and their programs and services, please contact Maria Espinoza, Assistant Executive Director at 239-472-4775 or visit their website at www.fishofsancap.org.