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Freshness fans flock to farmer's market

Published:   |   Updated: November 17, 2013 at 08:51 AM

DUNEDIN — Keeping it local is a big priority for many people who shop at Dunedin's weekly farmers market, which reopened this weekend.

Every now and then discerning shoppers take their commitment a bit too far, says Ken Straub, who sells a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables at the event in Pioneer Park.

At last year's market, a woman questioned Straub about a bunch of bananas.

“She had bananas in her hand and she asked, 'Are these local?'” Straub recalled.

“And I said, 'Well, no, they're grown in Costa Rica.'”

The woman turned and put the bananas back.

“Like she can go to the store and find them someplace else,” he said of the fruit, which doesn't grow well in most of Florida because of its intolerance to subtropical cool spells.

Dunedin's downtown market opened for its 10th year on Friday and Saturday and will continue until June.

The streets were packed with people as the market's opening coincided with the Downtown Dunedin Art Festival, which continues today.

With cooler temperatures finally arriving and the first influx of snowbirds making a brief pre-holiday visit to the area, Pinellas County's market season is in full swing this month.

There is some manner of outdoor bazaar happening nearly every day of the week from the south county beaches up to Palm Harbor. Straub, who also runs T's Market & Produce on Alternate U.S. 19, plans to attend another market in St. Pete Beach today.

Dunedin's market has new managers this year from Tampa Bay Markets, a group that organizes similar events in Tampa and at The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.

Managers Greg Barnhill and Tiffany Ferrechia said they've sought variety in their 45 vendors, offering everything from grass-fed beef to potted plants, making it possible for shoppers to skip the grocery store if they want.

“They're moving away from the corporate and wanting to support the local and the small, and they really want to know where what they're buying and eating is coming from,” Barnhill said of customers' growing demand for markets.

Some residents here objected to the city commission's 4-1 decision last month to shift management from the event's local founder, Richard Kendler, to an outside group based across Tampa Bay.

The committee that recommended Tampa Bay Markets for the five-year contract cited the group's ability to grow its other markets through strong advertising.

Jackie McDonough was just glad to be back selling Plantation Products coffee, a locally-owned roaster that imports top-quality beans from South America.

Palm Harbor residents Jason and Julia Christensen were glad to see her, too.

“We're excited,” said Jason, his two young daughters and son in tow. “It's the best coffee,” Julia said.

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