Editor’s Note: We spoke with Lee Perron with the Venice Farmer’s Market (VFM) to learn more about the operation and its community impact. The VFM is held 8am to 1pm every Saturday through April, and 8am to noon May through December. Visit TheVeniceFarmersMarket.org.
Lee, what’s the brief
history of the VFM and how did you get involved?
The VFM has been in operation in downtown Venice on the island for over 20 years. Maggie’s Seafood was one of the first charter members and they still offer Florida wild-caught seafood to this day.
How has the Venice
City Hall worked as the location?
The public response has been very positive. Staff and vendors appreciate the location with its wider pedestrian walkways, beautiful shade trees and picnic tables. The City has been a great partner.
How many vendors
participate and what’s the economic impact?
We now have 51 vendors. The 19 newer vendors have been local farmers, rock star bakers, and artisan food purveyors. Adding more food options has enhanced the VFM. The UF Economic Impact Study concluded vendors created $2.6M in revenue with a total impact of $5.3M on the downtown area.
What’s the process
for selecting vendors?
We are at capacity with a long waiting list, but completing an application is the first step. We are always looking for diverse and high-quality products that address the needs of our customers. And of course we value attracting top notch people that support their product. Professionalism, experience and a strong customer service background enhance the market experience.
How does the market
benefit local nonprofit groups?
Every week we have a non-profit guest to help build awareness of their mission, fundraising opportunities and volunteer needs. We contributed $17,000 in 2018 to local nonprofits serving the Venice community. We also offer the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and we double participant’s money when they shop so they can purchase twice as much nutritious food.
Lee, what’s your
I worked 27 years in the cable television and Internet industry and that includes serving as senior vice-president for Adelphia Communications.
What do you enjoy most about your role with the Venice market and the Thursday market in Englewood?
I appreciate our focus on nutritional health, education, sustainability, and community goodwill. I also value being part of an organization that supports local nonprofits.
How are the two
markets similar and dissimilar?
Both are nonprofits with the same mission and a focus on providing good food from local sources. Each community has its own personality and preferences, so many of our vendors reflect those nuances.