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New farmers market in Clearwater starts Saturday

CLEARWATER — There will be bakeries — one Mexican, one Greek. There will be food trucks. There will be fresh fruit and vegetables. There will be handmade soap, wood-fired pizza, spices and rubs, craft jewelry, ice cream, flowers, cheeses, and products for kids and pets.

"Also, we just got a sushi vendor," says Howard Warshauer, manager of the new Clearwater Gateway Farmers Market, which makes its debut Saturday.

Wait, another farmers market? Is that really necessary? There are already weekly farmers markets in downtown Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs.

However, this newest market is seeking to set itself apart.

"We would like to develop a reputation for having more international flavors here. That will differentiate this market from the others," said Sandra Lyth, CEO of the Intercultural Advocacy Institute, a local nonprofit group that will operate the market.

The Gateway Market will be held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the 1200 block of Cleveland Street just east of Missouri Avenue. That's in front of the Greektown Grille restaurant and the Cleveland Plaza shopping center, which contains the Nature's Food Patch organic grocery.

On this first Saturday, there will be 30 to 40 vendors.

Event parking is free in a vacant lot at Cleveland Street and N Lincoln Avenue and in the parking lot of Fifth Third Bank, 1150 Cleveland St. Signs will direct the way.

This location is smack in the middle of the ethnically diverse, economically depressed East Gateway area, which has no chain supermarkets. That's one reason why Clearwater and various partners are using a small federal grant to start up this market — to bring in fresh produce and attract more visitors to the district.

"If it wasn't for Nature's Food Patch, this area would qualify as a food desert," meaning a neighborhood with insufficient grocery stores, said Rocio Bailey, a nutrition consultant with Pinellas County Extension.

However, Nature's Food Patch is more of a high-end business, not geared toward East Gateway residents who use food stamps.

The Gateway Farmers Market has been in the works for months. It exists because the Pinellas County Health Department got a $4.85 million federal grant in 2010 to combat the obesity epidemic, improve nutrition and increase physical activity. The grant was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using federal stimulus money.

The county Health Department used that money to pay for a number of projects. It started looking at the East Gateway area.

"This idea started as a community garden," said Megan Carmichael of the Health Department.

"Then we realized we need to feed more people," said Lyth of the Intercultural Advocacy Institute.

A few months ago, the Clearwater City Council voted to accept a part of the Health Department's grant, up to $20,000, to pay for the farmers market's startup costs — tents, tables, chairs and marketing materials.

It handed those items over to the Intercultural Institute, which hired a market manager. That's Howard Warshauer, a community activist, longtime member of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership, and a former West Palm Beach city commissioner.

Warshauer sees the street market as a way to create a welcoming public space and to help make Clearwater a more livable city.

"Our goal for the farmers market is to promote the East Gateway neighborhood just east of downtown as a destination," said Ekaterini Gerakios, Clearwater's community development manager. "This is a new opportunity to engage the residents while giving visibility to local businesses. We are looking to create a sense of place for regularly scheduled events and activities in this unique community."

Participating vendors include Antonio T Fresh Produce, Brady's Backyard BBQ, El Paisa Restaurant & Bakery, Florida Citrus Country, Nedd Health Center, Swanson Soapworks, the Great Spiedini, and the Path Bicycle & Ride Shop. This Saturday, Carlos Rodriguez will be the featured musician and Magic Jay will entertain children.

"We'll have a lot of healthy foods," Warshauer said.

"And a lot of tempting foods," Bailey added.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

>>IF YOU GO

Clearwater Gateway Farmers Market

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays

Where: Cleveland Street east of Missouri Avenue

Parking: Fifth Third Bank, 1150 Cleveland St., and nearby vacant lot

Ribbon-cutting: 10:45 a.m. Saturday

Info: myclearwatermarket.com

Vendor contact: (727) 776-7932

New farmers market in Clearwater starts Saturday 01/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 7:42pm]
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