If you want to spend the day outdoors but have a grocery list in hand, think farmers markets. They dot the Pinellas County landscape from Gulfport to Tarpon Springs, with more than locals selling more than produce.
From homemade soaps to wine slush mixes, there's a lot of variety at farmers markets these days. Many also offer organic produce, prepared food, arts and crafts, and some have live music. Some are mere steps from the beach, historic districts or other popular tourist stops.
With 120 vendors, the Saturday Morning Market in downtown St. Petersburg offers everything from hummus to antique postcards.
Among the smallest of the Pinellas markets, Belleair's Market on the Mall has special touches to lure shoppers, including theme days, a knife-sharpening vendor and another who sells alpaca products.
"Any time the market is open, I try to take my lunch break there," said Danielle Feton, recreational programmer for the Dimmitt Community Center, which sponsors the market. "The tables are set up in the middle of the park like an outdoor cafe."
The Clearwater Farmers Market, one of the county's oldest, has been around long enough to change with the times and has become food-focused, according to Bob Fernandez, who manages it and two other Pinellas County markets. His wife, Pat, conceived the idea of a Clearwater market 18 years ago.
"The City of Clearwater has been very supportive over the years," Fernandez said. "About four years ago the vendors and customers doubled. And the market changed course about five years ago, when people started coming from their offices to have lunch. We're pretty proud of this market."
Residents of St. Pete Beach have two markets to choose from, the Sunday Market and the Corey Fresh Market, both open on Sundays.
The Sunday Market includes fine art in its wares. "We have the produce and all the other fresh market offerings," said market manager Patricia Chase. "We're right on the waterfront and have been blessed with outstanding weather this season."
The Corey Fresh Market has just added an extra hour on Sundays and is now open until 3 p.m.
Gulfport's Tuesday Morning Market offers foods ranging from Florida grass-fed beef to vegan options, but the atmosphere may be as much of a draw.
"I think Gulfport itself makes the Gulfport Fresh Market special," said Daniel Hodge, market manager. "The ambience and the Old Florida village feel makes our market unique."
Another picturesque backdrop for a fresh market with a variety of goods, from organic cotton products to pierogies, is the Dunedin Green Market. Richard Kendler, market manager, praises downtown merchants for making the market successful.
"The merchants and city work together to create a pleasing atmosphere for people who come to the Dunedin Green Market," Kendler said. "There is no competition with the restaurants and downtown merchants. What makes us special is that with the exception of produce and plants, there is only one vendor per product. And we have a different set of vendors on Saturday than we do on Sunday, which makes for a unique experience."
A lot of vendors at local markets are small incubators experimenting to see how they do before they open a business, Fernandez said. That opinion was echoed by Laura Johnson, manager of the Tarpon Springs Sunday Market. To help increase its odds of success, the Tarpon market recently moved back to its original spot on Alt. U.S. 19, where it can be seen by tourists traveling between the downtown historic district and the city's Sponge Docks.
"Now when people go to the market, they can make a day out of it," she said.
One market has a higher purpose: keeping a community institution in operation. With offerings including produce, seeds and smoked and cured meats, the Crossroads Market in Palm Harbor raises money for the Palm Harbor Historical Museum. The market "is really about community," said manager Barb Haley.
If you want to get outdoors and shop, the following are among your choices in Pinellas County.
Saturday Morning Market, St. Petersburg
Downtown at 230 First St. SE.
Sponsored by a nonprofit organization managed by Mark Johnson, Gail Eggeman and Carol Ringold.
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until late May.
Locally grown produce, organic produce, ethnic foods, housewares and gifts, crepes, empanadas, seafood, honey, cypress furniture, pottery, antique postcards and more. Live music. Gift certificates available for market vendors, and some vendors accept EBT cards. Metered parking, garage parking. For more information, call Gail Eggeman at (727) 455-4921.
Downtown Clearwater Farmers Market
In the 500 block of Cleveland Street near Station Square Park
Sponsored by City of Clearwater and Downtown Development Board
Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through May 16
Gourmet cheeses and foods, produce, flowers, fruit, honey, prepared ethnic foods, handmade jewelry, nuts, plants, eco-friendly products. Metered street parking and free two-hour parking at the Garden Avenue Garage with ticket validation. For more information, call Bob Fernandez at (727) 461-7674.
Sunday Market, St. Pete Beach
Horan Park, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive, next to the community center on Corey Causeway
Sponsored by the Suntan Group
Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through April 29
Produce, fruit, flowers, honey, local crafts and fine art in a park setting on the waterfront. Free parking. For more information: Patricia Chase (727) 367-3818
Corey Fresh Market, St. Pete Beach
300 block of Corey Avenue, just off Gulf Boulevard
Sponsored by the Corey Area Business Association
Sundays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through May 19
Produce, organic produce, spices, arts and crafts, plants, flowers, jewelry, New Orleans food. Live music. Free parking. For more information, call Bob Fernandez at (727) 461-7674
Safety Harbor Farmers Market
At John Wilson Park and Gazebo, 401 Main St.
Sponsored by City of Safety Harbor
Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through May 10
Gourmet cheeses and foods, produce, flowers, fruit, honey, handmade jewelry, art gift items, baked goods, nuts, plants and eco-friendly products. Free street parking. For more information, call Bob Fernandez at (727) 461-7674
Tuesday Fresh Market, Gulfport
On Beach Boulevard south of 29th Avenue S
Sponsored by Gulfport Merchants Association
Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until June. June through September: Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Vegetables, fruit, crafts, local honey, nuts and granola, arts and crafts, breads, seafood, blended teas, herbs, plants, flowers, dog treats, handmade soaps, candles, jewelry. Live music. Pet friendly. Free parking. For more information, call Daniel Hodge at (727) 366-4086.
Dunedin Green Market
In Pioneer Park, 420 Main St. downtown.
Sponsored by City of Dunedin
Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through April 28. Summer hours, starting May 5: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Produce and herbs, organic produce and products, pastries, teas, coffees, vegan food, rain barrels, seafood, hummus, Italian ices, pierogies, natural pet products, nuts, gourmet sauces, wine slush mix, honey. Friday and Saturday market offerings differ. Free parking in city lot. For more information, call Richard Kendler at (727) 733-4215.
Market on the Mall, Belleair
In Hunter Park, 999 Indian Rocks Road
Sponsored by Dimmitt Community Center
First and third Fridays of the month, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through March 16
Vegetables, fruit, crafts, honey, gourmet foods, nuts and granola, local arts and crafts, breads, coffees, teas, plants, flowers and eco-friendly products. Theme for each market day, including chili cook-off and holiday themes. Free street parking. For more information, call Sara Borger at (727) 518-3728 ext. 3.
Crossroads Farmers Market, Palm Harbor
At the North Pinellas Historical Museum, 2043 Curlew Road (corner of Belcher and Curlew roads)
Sponsored by the North Pinellas Historical Museum
Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. all year
Produce, jams, sauces, dried herbs, baked goods, smoked and cured meat, honey, cheese, pasta, nuts, coffee, potted herbs, plants, flowers, seeds, art and craft items, clothing, toys, home decor, collectibles, dried and silk flowers, seafood. Picnic tables under shade trees. Free parking. For more information, call Barb Haley at (727) 784-9690
Tarpon Springs Sunday Market
Relocated to Mother Meres Park, Alt. U.S. 19 between Court Street and Tarpon Avenue.
Sponsored by Laura Johnson in cooperation with the City of Tarpon Springs
Sundays, 9 am to 2 p.m. through May
Gourmet cheeses and foods, produce, flowers, fruit, honey, handmade jewelry, art gift items, baked goods, nuts, plants. Close to historic district and Sponge Docks. Free parking. For more information, call Laura Johnson at (727) 458-1138