Naples’ Small Town Market

The Olde Naples Farmers Market has evolved over the past 10 years from a small winter-only market into an all-year long artisan food market. With our short growing season and the limited types of produce that are available locally, the market was always struggling to find authentic farmers to sell their produce. Yet it remained very popular.

Every Saturday morning from 7:30 to 11:30, people and dogs crowd the tree-lined parking lot behind the Tommy Bahama restaurant in Old Naples and stroll past an increasingly diverse, unique group of food vendors in this quaint small town market.

Last week I bought Alaskan Coho salmon directly from Julie Johnson, a Naples native who spends her summers in Petersburg, Alaska fishing and flash freezing her catch, then coming back home to Naples, where she sells it at the market in convenient one pound frozen filets.

The Old Naples Farmers Market is also the first place in southwest Florida where Arrowhead Beef is selling their grass-fed beef from a small cooperative of family farms in the Florida Panhandle. The beef has been selling in a number of farmers markets in West Palm and Ft. Lauderdale but this is their first season on our coast.

Artisan bakers from France are selling beautiful and fresh little macaron cookies next to Italian bakers with their cannolis, while across the parking lot, the Bakery Boutique quickly sells out of most of their freshly baked cookies, especially the Peanut Butter Lover cookies which were gone by nine a.m. Chocolate makers are displaying the chocolate pods they bring in directly from Venezuela to produce some of the finest chocolate in the world which you can enjoy while your four-legged companion samples healthy dog cookies from the two dog bakeries also at the market.

Last week there was even a cooking demonstration from local chef Vincenzo Betulia, building interest in his soon to open Osteria Tulia on Fifth Avenue South. And as I looked for a coffee to wash down Vinnie’s bruschetta samples I wandered down to the food truck at the end of the market. Not one to turn down any fried dough product, I discovered “poffers” — the mini dutch donuts that were being served hot with fruit or savory fillings. This week was blueberry but next week I think I’ll try apple filling.

And of course there are still some farmers, including one specializing in Japanese and Chinese vegetables, and another in organic herbs. And long-time market veterans Jenny and David Burd are always there with their exotic and unusual native fruit stand, eager to get you to try a special mango or raw honey from their farm.

A lot of Neapolitans mourn the loss of the small-town local feel of Naples, but on Saturday mornings at least, you can still find it here.

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