eating fresh

by erin thursby
Farmers market fever has hit Jacksonville. With the success of the Riverside Arts Market, farmers markets have popped up all over the place. It’s hard to know if a market is worth driving to when you live across town. Some markets are tiny and cater to their particular neighborhood (Hemming, San Marco) and some pander to the First Coast at large (Riverside Arts Market). Others are conveniently located near shopping, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for at the market, you can either pop into a nearby supermarket (see the Mandarin entry) or go mall walking (Orange Park and St. Johns Towncenter). With these differences in mind, we’ve written up a handy guide to these local markets and stuck to locations no more than 40 minutes away from the city’s center.
jacksonville farmers market (Daily, dawn to dusk, If you’re out simply for produce, this is the market to go to. Because so many produce providers are altogether there each day, there’s competition, prices are excellent, even if you don’t haggle. Those who are a fan of haggling will also love this market, because it’s part of the atmosphere. One downside is that much of the produce is not grown locally. There are locally grown booths to be found and sometimes a booth that’s largely from other states and countries will have a section of eggplants or sweet potatoes grown here. Some might call the location a tad sketchy or dodgy.
hemming plaza market (Fridays 10 am- 2 pm, There’s often entertainment at this micro market, which gives the workaday crowd a chance to walk around Hemming Plaza during lunch, as they eat an apple and buy fresh flowers to make a bright Friday even brighter.
st. johns towncenter market (Fridays 3 pm- 8 pm, A moderate sized market on the Southside in one of the parking lots of the massive St. Johns Towncenter, between Wasabi’s and Dillards. If you go, just look for friendly signs directing you. A few produce providers, a variety of jarred and baked foodstuffs plus some artsy vendors make up this market. It’s perfect for a mall plus sustainable shopping day. Besides the produce, Kate’s Kitchen is one vendor you’ll want to check out. She sells amazing pumpkin and banana bread, as well as more traditional loaves.
beaches green market at neptune beach (Saturdays 2 pm- 5 pm, As is indicated by the name, this farmers market is all about being green. There’s an emphasis on locally grown organic produce at this midsized market. The produce vendors general grow what they are selling and the produce is local. Cognito Farms, a grass fed-beef, poultry, eggs and pork farm out of Starke, comes once a month (they take orders). For non-meat eats, there’s the Shatki Life Kitchen booth, selling vegan wares.
oak leaf green market (Saturdays 10 am- 1 pm, This market was inspired by the Beaches Green Market, but is located in Jacksonville off Argyle Forest Boulevard, in the parking lot of a Beall’s and an HH Gregg. Local produce, art made from recycled items, local fruit preserves and environmentally friendly cleaning products are just some of the things you’ll find. As an added bonus, husbands are perfectly happy at the HH Gregg whilst the womenfolk browse.
orange park farmers market (Saturdays 10 am- 2 pm, Once again, in a mall parking lot, this is a midsized and fairly busy market located in the Sears parking lot of the Orange Park Mall. Produce, plants and locally harvested honey are the main draw here, with a few oddities often seen at craft shows.
riverside arts market (Saturdays 10 am- 4pm, Probably the largest one day market in the area, there’s talk of the produce section of RAM remaining open during Florida’s growing season. Most of the booths are arts offerings, ranging from local artists to jewelry designers and everything in between. But you’re more likely to get locally grown stuff at their market than most others. Twinn Bridges, the provider of herbs and locally grown veggies for some of our top local restaurants, has a booth there so that ordinary citizens can experience their produce. Expect multiple entertainers, street performers, community events and a wide selection of wares.
market in the square, san marco farmers market (Saturdays 8 am- Noon, It’s a small neighborhood market, namely frequented by the locals that live in the immediate area and shoppers enjoying San Marco.
mandarin farmers and arts market (Sundays Noon- 4pm, It’s right outside the Whole Foods in Mandarin. This market attracts the after-church crowd and people looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon. It’s a small market, but there’s enough there to make it worthwhile and you can head into the Whole Foods for lunch or shopping once you’re done at the market. When we visited there were two booths for pet treats, one of which provided tiny palettes of wheat grass for kitties to chew on (there were also large sized palettes for humans making up healthy shakes). The other pet booth was called Star Barks, the dog treat bakery. It carries a huge amount of homemade doggies treats and sundries. They don’t have much for cats, but ask about the Kitty Pizza.
the avenues mall green market (Sundays Noon- 6 pm, New to the farmers market circuit is the Avenues Mall Green Market. It’s unique in that it is inside the Avenues Mall instead of outdoors. So no matter what the weather, you can gather fresh produce, locally baked goods and handcrafted art. About 60 vendors should be participating in November.