West Florida farmers markets

Plant City State Farmers Market
Established in 1939, this market sits on a 21-acre site in the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.” It is home to 16 tenants, including produce wholesalers, growers, and shippers, half a dozen packing companies, dual truck brokers, restaurants, and an Agricultural Law Enforcement Office.

The market sold $33 million in product last year. Its major commodities include strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, and okra, which are shipped to destinations across the nation and the world.

Fort Myers State Farmers Market
Established in 1945, the Fort Myers State Farmers Market is located near the Gulf Coast in Southwest Florida. This 20-acre market is home to 20 tenants who sell fresh produce, dairy, and seafood products, including Gulfshore Produce, which specializes in packing and shipping watermelon.

Established in 1952, the market’s aptly-named and very popular restaurant, The Farmers Market Restaurant, is the oldest continuously operating eating establishment in Lee County. The Fort Myers market sold more than $20 million in product for 2017.

Immokalee State Farmers Market
Founded in 1951, this market is located on a 30-acre site about 50 miles northeast of Naples. In 2017, the Immokalee State Farmers Market had nearly $11 million in sales. The market’s major items include tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, and watermelon. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma caused major damage to the market, forcing it to shut down. The market did not reopen until 2012. Fortunately, history did not repeat itself with Hurricane Irma last year.

“We dodged a bullet during Hurricane Irma and avoided damage to our warehouses,” says Jay Johnson, sales manager with JGL Produce Company Inc., a distributor based on the market. “The hurricane did not cause any significant damage to buildings inside the Immokalee State Farmers Market, but it did cause significant damage to homes, businesses, and many farms in and around Immokalee,” Johnson says. “Growers lost entire crops.”

Fortunately, he says things are back to business as usual on the market. “At JGL Produce, we pack and distribute bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, hot peppers, and tomatoes,” he explains, adding that organics are becoming more popular in the region.

“Many growers in South Florida, who in the past primarily produced conventional items, are now starting to grow organics and are significantly increasing organic acreage,” adds Johnson.

Wauchula State Farmers Market
Wauchula State Farmers Market opened its doors in 1937. This 9-acre market currently has half a dozen tenants, including an agricultural feed and supply store, a couple produce packers and a beef repacker and shipper. The market moved more than $42 million in product in 2017.

Amy Bell is a professional freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience. She writes for publications and companies across the nation. Visit writepunch.com to learn more.