Head to CoolToday Park on Wednesdays for fresh air, fresh produce and more
By Jim Dickerson | on December 16, 2020
BY ROBIN F. DEMATTIA
Wellen Park Journal Correspondent
The Atlanta Braves knocked it out of the park when they launched a farmers market at their CoolToday Park last fall. The convenient location in Wellen Park along with plenty of parking makes the Wednesday morning market attractive for both customers and vendors.
“It’s awesome for our customers,” Stephanie Brocardi Albin, owner of Sassy Tarts, says of the market’s location. “People are less stressed when they come to the market because they don’t have to worry about where to park or if they even can park. That’s really tremendous.”
Ms. Albin’s father, Jean Pierre Brocardi, is “the charming French guy” she sends to the market to sell her baked goods. The most popular items are chicken pot pies, beef burgundy pot pies and a Key lime tart with a wild blueberry swirl.
Sassy Tarts is one of more than 30 food and agriculture vendors who set up shop each week.
Anne Bellinder, the owner of Happy Flowers, sells fresh-cut flowers and arrangements made from dozens of flower varieties she imports from Ecuador and Columbia.
“You name it, we have it,” she says, adding popular flowers include Dutch purple hydrangea, orchids, carnations, lilies and Gerbera daisies.
Ron and Betty Joe Baca of Baca Breads sell nine different flavors of challah bread (Mr. Baca recommends the cinnamon raisin for French toast and onion or New York rye for sandwiches). The couple’s business is in the process to becoming certified as a kosher bakery.
Other vendors provide local and organic fresh produce, meats, seafood, dairy, herbs, syrups, salsa and more.
Market Manager Lee Perron says he and his team have spent a lot of time curating “what we believe are the finest vendors in the region.” He works with local vendors as well as some who drive to CoolToday Park every week from Naples and Miami.
Mr. Perron’s organization, Friends of Sarasota County Parks, launched the Englewood Farmers Market in 2011 and still operates that in addition to one in Venice and the Atlanta Braves market. A nonprofit organization, the Friends group has donated almost $200,000 in proceeds from vendor fees to charities such as food banks and health-care clinics.
All three markets accept, and even double, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
“A big part of our mission is to address food insecurity in the communities we serve,” Mr. Perron emphasizes. “If someone spends $20 on their card, we double that to $40 to spend on Florida-grown fruits and vegetables. It encourages them to have a healthy lifestyle.”
He notes that the pandemic and related unemployment rates have led people to require this assistance, making SNAP use “more robust than ever” at his markets.
He was approached by the Braves organization last year about setting up the market at CoolToday Park. “We agreed it would be a great idea to have a market for Wellen Park. It’s an amazing partnership, and the Braves deserve a ton of credit.”
He adds the Braves staff help set up and break down on market days, provide generators for vendors and offer marketing support.
Like the vendors, Mr. Perron says the park’s abundant parking is one of the market’s biggest attractions. “No one wants to carry a watermelon for four blocks,” he laughs.
While the market has made it easier for people who live near CoolToday to get fresh and prepared foods, Mr. Perron says he also often sees chefs from local restaurants perusing the market for items from local farms that they can’t find from other sources.
About 25 percent of the customers come every week, Mr. Perron says, and about another 40 percent come twice a month.
“We have a couple that visits Sassy Tarts every week and buys one large and several small pies. I asked them, ‘You buy a lot of pies?’ They said, ‘The small ones are for lunch and the big ones are for dinner.’”
This season, the market provides social distancing between vendor tents, all vendors wear masks, all food handlers wear gloves, and sanitizing stations are placed at entrances and vendor booths.
“We want to provide a safe outdoor shopping experience,” Mr. Perron says.
How does ABFM plan to practice social distancing?
Vendor booths will be spaced at a minimum of six (6) feet apart from one another.
ABFM will set-up caution tape where necessary in between booths to discourage customers from walking in between booths or into traffic.
Booth set-up minimizes a customer’s ability to touch products (ropes, tables, cones, sneeze guards). Customers may self-select produce when wearing a mask while following the rules of social distancing, “shop with your eyes not hands”, and “take what you touch”.
Vendor booths will have markers for 6 feet of social distancing for customers that walk up and are in line.
Vendors will have a “Pick Up Table” or use existing counter space for placing product for pick-up and receiving payment separate from product display.
Customers will be instructed to walk directionally and shop on the right at vendor tents and walk through the market in the center of the pedestrian walkway
There will not be dining, seating or gathering areas within the market site.
ABFM staff will constantly be monitoring the market site traffic and encouraging customers to keep moving to avoid overcrowding.
When market site attendance approaches crowds that inhibit effective social distancing, VFM staff will have a click-counter tool to track and control the number of people (entering and exiting) in the market. Staff will communicate via 2-way radios at market entrances/exits as customers enter and exit.
ABFM will place signage around the perimeter of the market between the street and sidewalks directing customers to use entrances at W. Dearborn St. and Green St. only.
Ask customers to please conclude shopping the market if they are shopping for an extended period (more than 30 minutes).
In preparation of lines forming with walk-up customers, VFM will have 6-foot pavement markers outside of both entrances of the market. ABFM to display instructional signs “Line Forms Here” and “maintain 6 feet for social distancing”.
Customer Code of Conduct signs posted at each entrance to the market site.
Customer friendly signage displayed throughout the market as reminders.
Will there be handwashing/sanitizing stations?
Yes, Vendors are required to have their own hand sanitization station. For customers, ABFM will have handwashing/sanitizing stations at each entrance to the market located at W. Dearborn St. and Green St.
ABFM will check every 30 minutes that there is adequate soap and paper towels and/or sanitizer at all ABFM handwashing/sanitization stations and refill as necessary. All hand washing/sanitization stations will meet health guidelines. ABFM will provide hand sanitizer for customers, vendors and staff at each entrance, our info booth and the exit.
Can I bring my dog to the market?
Please keep your pets at home (unless service animal).
What sanitation procedures are in place?
Staff and Vendors will clean and disinfect all “high-touch” surfaces including tabletops, phones, keyboards, and cash register counters (at minimum every 30 minutes).
Will there be restrooms for the public?
There will be restrooms located at the southwest area of the plaza.
Will vendors be practicing new safety guidelines?
Yes, here is a list of new procedures our vendors will follow to ensure health safety:
The selection of vendors will be consistent with existing Vendor Handbook located on the ABFM website @ www.bravesfarmersmaket.org
Except for produce and agricultural products, all food and bakery items will be packaged prior to customer purchase. Non-food items will be packaged, wrapped or bagged.
Vendors are required to wear PPE, facemasks and gloves at all times.
Vendors and staff are required to self-evaluate their health status prior to coming to market. This includes not coming to work sick and/or exhibiting COVID 19 symptoms.
Vendors and staff are required to report if they have had contact with anyone who has tested positive with COVID 19 and to request a two-week absence to self-quarantine.
Vendor booths will have markers for 6 feet of social distancing, provided by vendors, for customers that walk up and are in line.
Vendors will have a “Pick Up Table” or use existing counter space to place orders for pick up.
Encourage the use of on-line order and prepayment, credit/debit cards and contactless payment. If cash is used, we ask that vendors round up to the nearest dollar to limit the need for change.
SNAP customers will place their payment tokens in separate plastic bags provided by VFM staff when making payment to vendors. ABFM staff will collect the bags at the end of market. Tokens will be sanitized prior to re-issue.
Vendors should encourage customers to use credit/debit cards. Credit cards, clipboards, and terminals shall be sanitized after each transaction.
Handling money/market currency and food handling are separate (I.e.: there is one staff member handling food and another staff member that is handling money… adjoining vendors may share staff to handle money).
Only the necessary staff are working
No sampling, no selling consume-on-premises food and no refilling reusable containers.
Vendors wash their hands, change their gloves and sanitize their counters, tables, and work space frequently.
Vendors must handle produce (except where customer is wearing a mask and follows the customer code of conduct rules) and product for shoppers.
All booths have a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
Vendors must use plastic or vinyl tables and/or coverings for easy sanitizing.
Vendors must wash hands after using the restroom, touching their face, sneezing, using a tissue, before and after eating, and after handling money.
VFM staff will perform periodic checks of all vendors’ booths each hour. Any vendor that does not follow their pre-approved set-up will be required to stop selling and immediately correct the issue.
During the periodic checks, if staff observes possible COVID 19 symptoms among vendors or staff, vendor and/or staff temperature will be taken with a contactless thermometer.
Before a vendor can sell, ABFM staff will review each vendor booth for proper social distancing setup.
Vendors must clean and disinfect all “high-touch” surfaces every 30 minutes, such as (but not limited to) tabletops, phones, keyboards, cash register counters, handwashing sinks, card readers; and trash cans frequently. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered products that clean (removes germs) and disinfect (kill germs) must be used.
For Proper Handling of Disinfectants and Waste, vendors must ensure that:
Chemicals are used in a well-ventilated area and not mixed with incompatible chemicals
No chemical contact with food during cleaning
Waste is disposed safely a in a secure trash container provided by the vendor
Customer Code of Conduct
STAY HOME if I am sick or if I have been in contact with someone who is sick.
Make a shopping list before visiting the market.
Pre-order and prepay vendors if possible @ www.bravesfarmersmarket.org
Designate one shopper per household.
Leave my pet at home unless it is a service dog.
Be alert! I will notice modifications and signs and adhere to them.
Not touch products, but instead, ask a vendor for what I would like.
Maintain 6 feet of space at all times. I will look for physical cues like tape, chalk, and signs to help remind me.
Shop quickly and efficiently - 30 minutes or less
Use the provided hand sanitizer and/or hand wash stations at the market.
Avoid touching my eyes, nose, mouth, and face in general.
Cover my cough or sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of it. Then wash my hands.
Wear a face mask if you have one available, necessary for hand selecting produce, “shop with your eyes not your hands”, “take what you touch”
Be the most responsible shopper I can possibly be!
Take a photo of this sign as your reminder!
ENGLEWOOD/VENICE — As might be expected in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, farmers markets are suspended.
Englewood and Venice markets aren’t happening, organizers announced Tuesday.
The Punta Gorda Farmers Market has also been suspended, but organizers anticipate reopening the market next month.
“Our markets will remain closed until further notice in compliance with federal, state and local guidelines,” manager Lee Perron announced in an email Tuesday.
Perron manages the markets in Englewood, Venice and the new market that started this year at CoolToday Park in North Port, spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. That market was canceled earlier this month after Major League Baseball shut down spring training.
“The phone volume and e-mails regarding our markets have been massive,” Perron said.
But that doesn’t mean people have to deprive themselves of fresh vegetables. Patrons may still contact their favorite vendors individually and make their own arrangements.
“We are also directing customers in a responsible way to use our vendor directory on our websites to contact vendors directly,” Perron said. People need to arrange their own delivery and/or pick up options that comply with current social contact guidance.”
Perron encouraged vendors to use the markets’ Facebook pages as a platform to sell their products.
The vendor directories can be found on englewoodfarmersmarket.org, thevenicefarmersmarket.org and the bravesfarmersmarket.org
“Flexibility, patience and kindness will allow us all to work through our current global crisis,” Perron said. ‘Be well and be safe.”
I think all of you know that MLB spring training has been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
As Sarasota County has issued a mandate as of late last week that all events scheduled on county property shall be cancelled for the next thirty days, the Braves Farmers Market will discontinue operations for the last weeks of the season in March.
We sincerely want to thank all of the residents of North Port and West Villages for their support during our first season with the Braves Farmers Market.
Kudos to our talented vendors, staff and the extraordinary employees at Cool Today Park, the Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves.
We hope to see you all when we open for Season II in October!!!
NORTH PORT — CoolToday Park is shaping up to be a one-stop shop this spring for groceries, drinks, entertainment … and baseball.
Just after 10 a.m. Wednesday, Chef Craig Chasky was giving a cooking demonstration, something he does weekly at the farmers market that convenes in the parking lot right next to the ballpark, a complex that’s on the eve of welcoming the Atlanta Braves this week for their first spring training season in North Port.
Chasky is a personal chef/caterer and specializes in cooking meals with healing ingredients. His wife, Elizabeth Massey is a certified natural bereavement coach, who has a separate table at the farmers market, offering her services.
The couple have been vendors at the Braves Farmers Market since October when it opened. They also set up at the Venice Farmers Market on Saturdays.
The market’s manager, Lee Perron, said the Braves contacted him back in 2018 about using the space outside the stadium for a market. Perron said the organization liked the market’s mission, which includes giving proceeds back to the community.
The Braves Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon every Wednesday until March.
Shoppers can buy locally grown fruits and vegetables, homemade breads and cakes, all while sipping on a mimosa or Bloody Mary.
After your shopping is done, you can go up to the Tomahawk Tiki Bar inside of CoolToday Park for food and drinks, and view the brand new baseball field.
The tiki bar is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with happy hours offered Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and all day Sunday, with the exception of game days.
On non-game days, the public can watch the Braves practice beginning at 9 a.m.
CHEF CHASKY’S RECIPE
Back under his pop-up tent, Chef Chasky is handing out samples of the dish he created for the demonstration.
Chasky said he uses certified pure therapeutic-grade ingredients, which are considered above organic. He said they are considered to be 50 to 70 times the strength of traditional herbs.
For example, two ingredients he used in Wednesday’s demonstration included Ylang Ylang, which helps with hormonal balance and naturally increases libido. Another ingredient he used was lavender, which serves as a natural antihistamine and helps with insomnia.
Chasky said he had Lyme Disease in the ’70s, and his weight fell to 95 pounds. The medicines he was on were synthetic and he was looking to heal in a more natural way.
“The missing part for me was the education,” Chasky said, adding that his wife made up for that part.
“She was missing eating correctly while grieving — people tend to eat sporadically/not well while they’re grieving, which leaves them prone to disease or infection,” Chasky added.
18800 S. West Villages Parkway
Venice, FL 34293
October thru March