There’s a new addition to the list of places to get fresh produce in Alachua County.
The Alachua Chamber of Commerce recently created Alachua Farmers Market, which provides producers from the area with a centralized venue to sell their products. It also gives the local community an alternative option to buy locally grown and produced goods. Since its inception in October, there have been several vendors who have consistently returned every week.
The Alachua Farmers Market is held at 14801 Main St. in Alachua on Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m., carving out a time unique from Union Street Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons in downtown Gainesville, as well as the Saturday morning offerings at the Alachua County Farmers Market on U.S. 441 and Haile Plantation Farmers Market.
Gus Rebello, 34, said that this was one of the best markets of which he has been a part. As he adjusted his grey hoodie in response to a brisk breeze in late January, he recalled his unusual journey to becoming a vendor.
“I originally moved here for my daughter to be able to see her family,” Rebello said. “I went from working a normal job to owning bees and harvesting honey.”
Rebello originally heard about the market on Facebook but didn’t think much of it. After some time, he joined the Gainesville Area Bee Club and gained mentoring from older members of the organization. In the fall, he again heard about the market and decided it was worth trying.
Within a month, he cleared a bureaucratic hurdle to begin packaging his pesticide-free honey for sale.
“I had to pass a state inspection of my bees,” Rebello said. “I could have gotten a faster start if there were more than five beekeeping inspectors in the state of Florida.”
According to Rebello, every vendor in the market is required to have their facility inspected by the state and become insured.
Vendors are required to pay a $13 weekly fee for their space at the market, except those vendors who have been there from the start and only pay $10. Rebello has noticed about 30 regulars coming to the market every week, stopping to chat with or purchase from each vendor they know.
The diversity of the market is controlled in order to ensure there is only one seller of each product. This gives vendors the comfort of knowing they don’t have to compete against each other. It also encourages new products.
Nearly everyone shopping at the market on a cold afternoon approached the Graham Cattle tent. Heath and Dallas Graham moved between their coolers filled with steaks and sausages to the crowd trying and buying their product. The husband and wife are local beef farmers with a farm just outside Alachua. Heath talked to some of the customers about the recent cold, and Dallas fixed samples of another product — their roast beef — from a small pot.
Heath Graham said many of his customers are people he knew, but there are some who are new to the market. Before the market was established, the Grahams only sold to people they knew. They saw the market as an opportunity to expand.
“Seeing the same people come back, hearing their stories, talk about family and really getting to know them is what makes the market truly special,” Heath Graham said.