HYDE PARK — Eggs from Lutz and eggplant and okra from Brooksville draw more than 1,000 shoppers on the first Sunday of every month to Hyde Park Village.
It's the largest of six open-air Fresh Markets operated by Tampa Bay Markets in the area. But even so, the fresh bounty offered accounts for just a quarter of the goods available.
That's a problem, said Tiffany Ferrecchia, market manager. She hears regularly from people who come from other states expecting to find more heirloom tomatoes and fresh greens at the markets.
"Traditionally, farmers markets have farmers," she said.
That's the direction the markets are aiming for. So she's making a plea to local farmers.
"Get off the farm and feed the people locally," said Ferrecchia, who has been building the markets since 2008.
To entice more farmers, Tampa Bay Markets will waive the $40 vendor fee at markets, at least for the first three months and then discount the fee. At markets with more space, farmers can come for free indefinitely.
The hope is that the markets will be profitable for farmers.
Market managers are reaching out individually to farmers in the region. At the Fresh Market at Wiregrass, a man brings his kumquats from Dade City. When he told a market director about his friend who grows Florida peaches, the friend received an email.
Word of mouth is often how farmers are recruited, said Greg Barnhill, director of operations and finance for the markets.
"People are becoming more concerned about the origins of what they're eating," he said.
Farmers who wish to sell their produce can email Barnhill at [email protected]