“Thank you for coming to the downtown Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market. It is a Saturday morning tradition” barks the market manager over the loud speaker as hundreds of customers arrive at sunrise to eat a breakfast croissant, pick up some arugula and sample the delicious fresh citrus. Every week of the year a mixture of sunshine, shore winds and smiling faces greet native and tourist alike at the Downtown Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market, generating energy and enthusiasm that brings customers back week after week from communities as far away as New York, Boston, Ann Arbor, Madison, Wisconsin as well as Florida’s Treasure Coast.
It wasn’t always like this. “The Fort Pierce downtown area was once designated as a blighted zone,” Linda Hudson, market manager tells us. “I believe that our market along with other things that have happened, have made this city of Fort Pierce downtown area a place where people throughout the Treasure Coast go to. We have patrons that come here from Palm City which is in Martin County, from Stuart, from Vero in Indian River County, from Okeechobee and people say I didn’t know the downtown area of Fort Pierce was so beautiful.”
So how did the downtown area become such a destination place? Patron Ken Stephanz tells us “the city has done a great job renovating this whole waterfront. Four years ago they redid the whole area. They put in the palm trees. They did the paving, the tiling, the brickwork and so forth. And it’s just blossomed! I think they’ve promoted it well and they promoted it on the radio everywhere – newspapers, magazines. And it’s an attitude. It’s an attitude. We want to grow this place. We want it to be better!”
Brenda and Jim Gibbons own an organic farm and have sold at the downtown Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market for over 10 years. “Our market is rain or shine so we’re there 52 Saturdays a year,” says Brenda “and I have customers who have ventured out in driving rain or freezing cold ‘cause they know I’m going to be there.” Jim concurs “Most of the customers are absolutely fantastic! It’s really fun. The customers really make it. It’s like ‘Oh my god do you hear about so and so’. And you get all the stories about all the people…And it’s like the old front porch used to be.”
Lucky Onion Vendor Theresa Dorme finds something special to eat there every Saturday. “Well, I always get chocolate Danish from Mr. Bread. My husband always gets a breakfast burrito. And then I just tried the crepes for the first time last week and those are absolutely delicious.”
Market Manager Linda Hudson finds much to like about the market as well. “I like the people, I like the vendors. The vendors are like a family and if you’ve ever been here early in the morning when all the vendors are setting up they are all very good to one another. They help each other set up. They act like a family.”
Linda and Patty, two residents who vacationed in Fort Pierce for the winter and decided to stay, come almost every Saturday. “And when you come here you smell what you’re supposed to smell. The carrots smell wonderful. The rutabagas, the turnips, the nectarines. Everything smells good. It is beautiful!”
There’s more than fresh vegetables at the market. There’s music and orchids, fresh bread, bar-b-qued chicken and ribs. They’ll even make you an omelet if you can wait. The lines are usually pretty long. But there’s a comfortable sea wall – the eastern perimeter of the park – that provides amble room to relax and socialize with your friends and neighbors once you are served.
August and Linda Barbary were visiting from New Jersey when we met them early in the morning. “We found this farmers’ market last Saturday and we had such a wonderful time and we were here before it was ready for business and we just walked around with the sun coming up and having a wonderful cheese and egg sandwich and we says we gotta come back again this Saturday! And so we’re loaded down with purchases and we’re running off to other activities.”
Linda Hudson sums it up well. “We say it’s a Saturday morning tradition. And that’s what you do when you come down to this market – you buy your breakfast, you buy your lunch, you sit along the seawall you visit with your friends, some people bring their dog. You have to have it on a leash but we don’t discourage it. And it’s a great outing!”
The Downtown Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 8am to noon, 52 weeks a year. Sample the delectables or come for something special. Bring you dog and your out-of-town guests. You’ll be pleasantly amazed as we were. Get caught in the frenzy and join in the fun. It’s really something to experience.
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