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Farmer’s markets return to Fort Myers Beach

Beach Baptist farmer's market opens with Santini farmer's market next

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Oct 14, 2020

In the 1994 American film classic “Pulp Fiction,” John Travolta asks Uma Thurman if he can take a sip of her Martin and Lewis vanilla milkshake while seated at the 1950’s retro diner Jack Rabbit Slim’s.

“I’ve got to know what a $5 shake tastes like,” Travolta said. After sharing a sip from Thurman’s straw, he agrees with her selection. “I don’t know if it was worth $5 but it was pretty (strong adjective) good.”

The return of the farmers market at Beach Baptist Church this past week features stands with multiple flavors of lemonade and iced tea which bring similar thoughts. The $6 juices may help quench your thirst depending on how hot it is outside, but they are pretty good nonetheless. Those who remember cheaper lemonade prices have to factor in the cost of inflation as well as the stress on vendors such as Lenin Grajales, who are standing in temperatures of 90 degrees or more to deliver such refreshments.

The lemonade stand of Grajales is a stick-out as it features not only traditional lemonade, but offers options of cherry, watermelon, strawberry, mint and coconut to go along with lemon. There is also hand-squeezed mandarin and orange juice.

The return of the Beach Baptist farmers market last week, to be followed by the opening of the farmers market at Santini Plaza this week, is another sign that life is starting to return to some sense of normalcy on the Beach. The markets closed in March when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

Bettina Parrish of "Bettina's Teas" mixes her "Hibiscus in Love" iced tea at Beach Baptist Church farmer's market on Fort Myers Beach.

Though not yet operating at full capacity, the Beach Baptist farmer’s market had about 10 vendors last week, offering everything from Cuban food to locally caught seafood, locally grown fruits and vegetables and handmade crafts and jewelry.

“We’ve been out of work for six months,” said farmers market organizer Linda Miller. “The spring kicked us really hard because that is our prime time,” Miller said. The vendors lost out on a lot of income and had a tough summer as a result, Miller said. The Beach Baptist farmer’s market will be open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m to 1 p.m. through April at 130 Connecticut Street.

“Wednesday, we had a really great turnout,” Miller said. This will be the second season that the farmer’s market is also operating on Friday’s.

The farmer’s market will be open at Santini Plaza beginning Tuesday. The Santini Plaza market will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We’re really grateful that the town council gave us our permits,” Miller said. Not all of the vendors have returned yet though Miller has picked up some new ones.

The Beach Baptist farmer's market returned to Fort Myers Beach along with this fruit and vegetable stand from Eldridge's Produce

New faces include “Bettina’s Teas” featuring loose leaf tea. The flavors include “Colombian Passion” with green rooibos tea mixed with passion fruit, mango and apricot; “Hibiscus in Love” with Jamaica flower tea with strawberry, mango and papaya; “Mermaid’s Touch” with green and white tea mixed with passion fruit, pineapple and strawberry. Different teas offer antioxidants and probiotics. For example, the “Hibiscus in Love” is made with elderberries, which are good for the immune system, said vendor Bettina Parrish.

Molly Weaver, an Alabama native who lives on Fort Myers Beach, is in her second season selling her homemade crafts which include colorful baskets made out of rope and fabric. “I cut the fabrics and then just wrap it around the rope,” she said. She also makes baby bibs and outfits for toddlers.

Eldridge’s Produce, which offered home delivery of fresh produce and herbs to Beach residents during the early part of the pandemic, are back with their own stand. Among their offerings are watermelon, pineapple, mandarins, mangos, lemons, apples, corn, celery, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions, radishes, garlic and tomatoes.

Lori Bechtel, of Wisconsin and Fort Myers Beach, picked up mangoes, tomatoes and lemons with her husband Joel. Ms. Bechtel said she’s happy to be back in town and enjoys the “warm weather.”