The Florida-favorite grocery store Publix has three locations within walking distance of each other on Archer Road. Trader Joe’s, also located in close proximity, opened this year with specialty and lesser-known products. There are, of course, other stores to get groceries and other necessities: Target, Walmart, Walgreens, if you wish. But buying local, which encompasses buying foods locally grown by professional or home-based growers on farms, is a completely new experience.
Ward’s Supermarket has been a buy-in-bulk, one-stop shop for a vast array of locally grown grocery shopping needs. But what about a new kind of local buying that doesn’t involve an actual grocery store or, better yet, doesn’t involve a store at all? Behold the green market, which seems to have made a trendy comeback in food shopping, especially as the summer months roll in and leave college students with more free time and Gainesville residents with a bevy of seasonal food options.
Some of the best green markets I’ve checked out to get your locally grown food shopping on are:
Monday: Tioga Monday Market at Tioga Town Center is a bit of a stretch, as its location in Jonesville makes it less appealing to Gainesville residents looking for convenience. And why would you want to go out of your way to grocery shop? Good question, but like I said before, green markets provide an alternative, even more personalized shopping experience. Although a bit smaller, this open-air, fair-weather Monday market on West Newberry Road from 4 to 7 p.m. has those great local food vendors but also provides an exit route to one of the many shops in Tioga Town Center — including the new World of Beer.
Wednesday: Union Street Farmers Market at Bo Diddley Plaza downtown is one of my favorites. Also from 4 to 7 p.m., the last of the cooler weather crops, such as lettuce and strawberries, were being sold for reasonable prices to make up for the $5 pint of blueberries each vendor was selling, I’m sure. But hey, that’s the price you pay to support your local community. I had a sample of tempeh that I thought was produced by magic hands. While attracting a seemingly younger crowd, the plaza allowed for a large number of the earthy-crunchy vendors to be closer together and sold a lot of produce as well as already-prepared foods such as quinoa salad. Kudos to them for landing a spot at the most visited green market I ventured to as well.
One in particular, Hoggtowne Lemonade Co. has been at the market since April of last year and is out every Wednesday as well as Saturday at Haile Plantation. After selling me their raspberry hibiscus lemonade, which I am forever hooked on, co-owner Adam Streifel said he buys the fruit he started juicing at home every morning from Ward’s and local farms. It’s all “locally sourced,” he said, “especially the blueberries and strawberries right now from Williston.”
Saturday: The Haile Farmers Market at the Village Center from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays was nothing short of beautiful. Maybe it had to do with the perfect sunny weather, but this green market’s location winding through a road nestled in between quaint shops and smaller restaurants was iconic. Vendors had huge smiles plastered on their faces as mostly families meandered through the market. When compared to Union Street Market, Haile had fewer vendors and sampling opportunities. However, Haile provided a proportional amount of produce vendors to cheese and pastry vendors and even specialty vendors, such as flowers.
Amanda Bowers’ baked goods stand BakerBaker caught my attention with its delicately wrapped pastries such as the pecan bars. Bowers had a stand since June 2012 at the market, and it is the only location she sells from outside of her home, which she rents out of and does “small catering things.” She said it was popular to become a “cottage food baker, which was a law passed in November that allowed people to bake out of their homes without a certified kitchen.”
Bowers sells out of everything by about 10 a.m. each Saturday morning and also buys her ingredients from markets, especially the seasonal zucchinis and blueberries currently.
Saturday: The Alachua County Farmers Market at the corner of U.S. Highway 441 and County Road 121 is an outdoors green market for your produce fix. A smaller market covered by a single large tent, the greens and local veggie produce is in abundance. Small tables with a handful of browsing buyers suggest this is a lesser-known market. I almost passed it on the road, honestly. But it continues to be a friendly atmosphere, and like the Union Street Market, it offers the option of using a credit card to purchase special coins to use at the market when you forget to bring cash.