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Monday, June 24, 2024

Vegan Farmer’s Moo-ket delights North Florida residents

Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary hosted a vegan farmer’s market on Sunday with several vendors and an opportunity to bond with the sanctuary’s animals

Attendees pet and fed the animals at the Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary on Sunday afternoon.
Attendees pet and fed the animals at the Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary on Sunday afternoon.

About 15 minutes north from the University of Florida, taste buds rejoiced Sunday afternoon at the Farmer’s Moo-ket. From pickled garlic to plant-based Oreo flavored macaroons, attendees perused the variety of options vendors offered. The farmer’s market, hosted by the Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary, also had cows and pigs for attendees to pet and feed.  

Erin Amerman, president and founder of Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary, said they host these markets not just for the interest of the attendees but for the animals as well. 

“We believe that most people really do love animals, but we're taught by society that some animals are less animal-y than others, and so they're less deserving of compassion,” Amerman said. “So we want people to see firsthand that that isn't the case, and that a pig and a cow, they're just like the animals they already love. So that's the goal is to foster compassion. 

Amerman founded the sanctuary in 2016 and said the farm has around 170 cows, typically coming from abuse or neglectful situations. Amerman said the organization is the largest bovine sanctuary in the country, and it houses animals like pigs, horses, donkeys, a bison and even a water buffalo. 

Gainesville resident Jane Morgan, 37, sheltered herself near a tree with her dog Stevie. Morgan, a first-timer at the market, heard about the event via Facebook.

“It’s so nice to go somewhere where you can eat anything you want and that talks about animal rights,” Morgan said. 

The event was advertised on social media and noted it would be following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing and mask guidelines. However, the advertisement came before the CDC’s recent decision to allow fully vaccinated individuals to roam mask-free in most areas. Many attendees chose to go maskless.

“You know, we'd still like people to wear masks,” Amerman said. “But I understand that a lot of people are vaccinated at this point, it's almost more of a social contract, where you wear the mask so that the people around you feel more at ease.” 

The sanctuary typically hosts between 400-700 attendees per event, depending on the weather. The market had 35 different shops showcasing their vegan and plant-based products to the attendees.

Standing behind an array of pickled items while donning a Rick and Morty Pickle Rick Bucket hat stood Elijah “Big Fish” Gruman. The 30-year-old has been in the food and pickle industry for 15 years, to which he started his business Proud Pickles as a hail mary during the COVID-19 lockdown last year. 

“Everything was originally through Gainesville word of mouth on Facebook and hand-delivered,” Gurman said. “So I’d go to homes, apartment complexes, I would do handoffs, and Home Depot parking lots, it's like a drug deal when you're not looking at it. So really funny. But over time, my business built up, and eventually started getting into farmer’s markets.” 

He said he was fascinated by the health benefits of pickled items that he never really intended but rather worked as a happy coincidence. 

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Gurman’s shop offers pickled cucumber, asparagus, avocados and more. 

“As long as it fits in a jar, he will pickle it if he hasn’t already,” he said.

He added that due to the recent spotlight on pickled garlic, it’s been flying off the shelves of his shop. Gurman said he finds it funny because, in the beginning, he struggled even to sell pickled garlic. 

As lunchtime rolled around, many attendees made their way over to the food trucks and shops. Decorated with a silver Eiffel tower, Melanie Patrick’s tent caught the attention of attendees looking to satiate their sweet tooth. Patrick sells both regular French pastries and plant-based macaroons at her shop, Soleil Confections. 

The inspiration to bring her vegan sweets derived from popular talk of the market’s atmosphere. Patrick said it’s very therapeutic for her to make the pastries, and she enjoys meeting people. Patrick was a vendor twice at the farmer’s market and plans on opening a store in Ocala in September. 

Gainesville resident Chris Foltz, 47, and his family sat as they ate food from the vegan fusion cuisine Radha’s Kitchen. His family tried the Chickpea Buffalo Tempeh, vegetarian spring rolls and other vegan options. He said he found out about the event as he searched for local events on Facebook. He and his family were looking forward to the food the most, and although they’re not vegan, they said they enjoyed it. 

Amerman said the sanctuary plans on having the vegan farmer’s market on the third Sunday of every month. She said the sanctuary also offers private tours for people who want to have a more intimate experience with the animals. 

“I just hope that people who are not plant-based eaters, but who still consider themselves animal lovers, we'll consider coming out and trying the food and meeting the critters and just see what they think. Maybe it'll change your mind or two.”

Contact Melissa at Follow her on Twitter @Mhernandezdlc.

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Melissa Hernandez de la Cruz

Melissa Hernandez de la Cruz is a fourth-year journalism major at the University of Florida. She loves to travel, create photography, enjoy new cultures, and is a fellow history junkie. Apart from being a citizen of the world, she also shares birthdays with legendary artists Bruce Lee, Jimi Hendrix, and Bill Nye. 

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