Every Wednesday, rain or shine, a group of dedicated farmers flood Bo Diddley Community Plaza with tents under which they sell some of the finest products Gainesville has to offer. From fresh sprouts to organic sourdough breads, there is no lack of variety at the Union Street Farmers Market.
The open-air market, held every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., is a producer market, meaning the woman you buy that grapefruit from is the same woman who grew it. Quality, a prevalent theme among the farmers, is a great advantage of the market. Vendors honestly care and take measures to assure that you receive nothing less than their best. Here are a few things that cannot be missed.
Hulless organic popcorn popped in coconut oil and sprinkled with sea salt: no popcorn has ever been this unique and delicious. The kernels are hulled, which means they are free from those annoying little skins that always get stuck between your teeth. Stop by the Abundant Acres tent, and Rick Mitidieri will be happy to give you a sample of his delectable concoction. Sprouts, and lots of them. Find them at 60-year-old farmers market regular Manotea's tent. Clover radish, alfalfa, green lentil, wheat and mung bean sprouts were just the few he was selling when I paid him a visit.
For those who are looking to become market regulars, there is the option of community-supported agriculture (CSA). Offered weekly by Siembra Farm, CSA is a membership program that partners farmers with customers directly. For $25 to $35 a week, CSA members receive a bag full of fresh produce that they can pick up at the market every Wednesday.
"Our produce changes from week to week, but we try to keep it seasonal and always locally grown," said Cody Galligan, 32, owner and farmer of Siembra Farm.
"The advantage of CSA is developing that relationship with the farm and the food as well as contributing to food security," Galligan said.
Black olive hummus scooped up with fresh rosemary sourdough bread can be sampled at Mosswood Farm Store & Bakehouse's tent. It would be hard not to purchase a tub of their fresh, organic hummus after you have just one taste. You may even find yourself devouring the sample tub.
"We bake our organic sourdough breads in wood-fired brick ovens," Mosswood Farm manager Emily Piazza explained. Their breads go great not only with their hummus but also with their tabbouleh and seasonal fruit jams.
The farmers market would not be complete without a few sweets, which are prominently available. Make sure to pick up a macaroon. The interesting flavor combinations are what convinces buyers to dish out the $2 for the purchase, but it is their perfection that will have customers returning to buy three or four more for "later."
There are more than just edible items for sale at the market. Monica's Cococastile Soap is a favorite among market regulars. With more than 12 different varieties, the soaps are perfect for all-around use. They can serve as face soap, body soap, shampoo and conditioner. Don't believe me? Stop by Monica's Cococastile Soap tent and she will cut you up a sample.
So take a stroll through the plaza on Wednesday afternoons! Enjoy the live music that changes weekly. Indulge in a few free samples, and get to know the colorful local people that make it all happen.