The new downtown market

Listen, we’ve got your fresh artisan guacamole here, your speckled peas, broccoli and radishes across the way and your microgreens at the booth next door.

On the paleo diet? Wild Man’s got your wild hog, wild gator and wild shrimp. Is organic your bag? Here’s Frog Song, Grown-N-Grace and Weavers Whimsey.

A couple of guys over there are playing cool jazz for a hot summer afternoon.

Oh, and there’s beer. Because what’s the point of having a farmer’s market at Cypress & Grove Brewery if you can’t get a beer?

I know, there has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth since we learned that the Union Street Farmer’s market abandoned its longtime venue at the Bo Diddley Plaza and decamped to Celebration Point.

But you don’t have to drive clear to the other side of I-75 to get your smoked mullet-fresh honey-and-home made tempeh fix.

It’s just that Monday is now the new Wednesday. And Gainesville’s center of home grown produce gravity has shifted 10 blocks north.

“We are the new downtown farmer’s market,” says Monica Albert, founder of the Grove Street Farmer’s Market. And sure enough, some of the same folks who hawked their goods at Bo Diddley on Wednesday are among the 30 or so vendors now setting up at the brewery on Monday.

“I think it’s all going to work out beautifully,” says Albert, aka “The Blade,” proprietor of Mo’s Garage, where they fix hair, not cars, on NW 4th Street.

And talk about timing, good and bad: Albert began organizing the Grove Street Farmer’s Market before anybody ever heard of coronavirus and without a clue that the venerable downtown market’s days would be numbered.

Almost as soon as the new market began putting up tents the town was locking down. But food being an “essential service,” the Grove Street show went on.

“The biggest challenge has just been absorbing the whole crisis itself, keeping spirits high and the momentum going,” she said. “It’s imperative that all vendors wear masks and gloves while handling produce. We encourage patrons (to wear masks). When the majority of people are practicing common sense, people kind of fall into line.”

The Union Street Market is no more because the city closed the Plaza and is not yet willing to open it up again. “We are able to continue to operate because we’re on private property,” Albert said. “Vendors have come (from downtown) to bridge the gap”

Which is not to say that the market’s current footprint is, um, set in stone. Albert hopes that, eventually, it will expand to the adjacent 6th Street rail-trail and stretch down NW 10th Avenue and around the corner to her own shop. “It’ll fluctuate some, but I have this number in my head. By the beginning of the year I hope to see 75 vendors here.”

Nobody is happy about losing a farmer’s market that has been a downtown tradition for years. But on the plus side, Grove Street is an up and coming center of home-grown entrepreneurship…eateries, galleries, clothing stores, coffee shops, pet stores and a community food pantry that is needed now more than ever. So why not a farmer’s market to help glue it all together?

“I have my business here and I love this neighborhood,” Albert said. “We are now up and running, and as we move forward, everybody’s happy.”

Long live the downtown farmer’s market.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog, http://www.floridavelocipede.com

Author: floridavelocipede

A sometime journalist who used to string words together for a living before I retired to run a non-profit cycle touring organization that will henceforth go unnamed, as I have subsequently retired from that career as well. I write a bi-monthly column, theater reviews and an occasional magazine piece for my old newspaper. If I still had a business card it would read: Ron Cunningham: Trained Observer Of The Human Condition. Because like The Donald, you know, ego.

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