Brownwood farmers return to sell wares

Janice Jones, left, from Ocala, helps, Judie Couf, right, of the Village of Osceola Hills, pick a fresh head of lettuce in June 2019 at the Brownwood Farmers Market.

During the Brownwood Farmers Market’s three-month hiatus, beekeeper Scott Irving has missed the camaraderie with fellow vendors and the people who have been coming to see him for years to buy honey. But on Saturday, the camaraderie will return along with the Brownwood Farmers Market. The event will now take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday with added sanitation and distancing efforts. “We are excited to be able to provide a safe opportunity for Villagers to shop outdoors in the Florida sunshine,” said Ryan McCabe, operations manager for The Villages. “We feel confident that The Villages residents will follow the CDC guidelines while enjoying the farmers market, just as they are doing in our recreation and lifestyle facilities.” 

Saturday’s farmers market will bring in 45 vendors, which will be spaced farther apart to maintain social distancing, according to Brian Russo, director of entertainment. 

“We also will not be allowing free samples and will be keeping the bar closed so we can minimize touch points,” Russo said. 

Additionally, hand-washing stations have been added to the sides of each bar hut, and there also will be more hand-sanitizing stations, Russo said. 

Irving, owner of Riverview Apiaries Inc. in Lake Panasoffkee, is thrilled to have the event back. 

“For a lot of people, this is how they make their living,” Irving said of the farmers market. 

Irving said he understands people are being cautious, and he is going to be cautious, too.

“We are going to wear masks, and we’ll cut down the queue to two or three people at a time,” Irving said. 

On Saturday, Irving’s booth will be stocked with a plethora of honey, from the popular wildflower honey and orange blossom honey to palmetto honey and creamed honey that spreads like butter. 

“We’ll have different sized containers from 1 pound up to 12 pounds,” he said. 

Jonathan Squires, owner of Just Perfect Plants in Leesburg, looks forward to eventually returning to the Brownwood Farmers Market to connect with new Villagers. 

Squires has been working on obtaining new plants to sell at his store and the farmers market.

“I sell high-performance, colorful plants with easy care,” he said. 

Even during the height of social distancing, Squires saw a lot of business at his store. 

“My tagline was ‘Come as you are, shop from your car, pay from your car,’” Squires said. “And people actually did that.” 

The Brownwood Farmers Market will offer a venue for those hungry for fresh, locally grown produce, as well as those who are looking to start their own food gardens.

Russo said he is thrilled that the farmers market is coming back because it is a step toward everything reopening. 

“We’re making sure we take our time and do things right, and this is the first step in that direction,” Russo said. “We’re looking forward to seeing how this goes so we can keep working on the next steps.”

Senior writer Kristen Fiore can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5270, or kristen.fiore@thevillagesmedia.com.

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