The Captiva Farmer’s Market celebrated its second year at South Seas Resort on Captiva Island in the fall of 2019. It is held each Tuesday of the week from 9 am to 1 pm.
About 25 vendors come out each Tuesday to serve an assortment of fresh produce and finished meals, including cheeses, local honey, guacamole made on site, hummus, chicken parmigiana, soap, and fresh cut flowers.
“The Captiva Island Farmers Market brings fresh food and veggies right next door!” wrote Ambu Yoga on a Facebook post. “We never miss getting our organic on with Farmer Danny. Thank you, Betsy Feagans Ventura for bringing healthy food to Captiva every week.”
Sanibel Island resident Betsy Ventura teamed with islander Jean Baer to launch their first Farmer’s Market on Sanibel in 2008. They started with a short 6-week trial at Tahitian Gardens, and it attracted enough interest that they ran it for a full season the following year near the Sanibel Library.
They now operate 9 markets in Southwest Florida: Capitva, Sanibel, Sanibel Outlets, Lakes Park, Downtown Fort Myers, Fenway South at Jet Blue Park, the Promenade, Coconut Point, and Boca Grande. The one they took over in Downtown Fort Myers is the longest running Farmer’s Market in Lee County. Vendors who are interested in signing up for a booth can visit BuyLocalLee.com for more information.
The Captiva location is unique in that there is a mix of vacationers and residents. Situated at the entrance of South Seas Resort near the tennis courts, those on holiday like the convenience of coming on foot and picking out snacks and meals. It is also convenient for Captiva residents, who enjoy such a variety of foods so close by.
“The people on Captiva have really embraced us, and they appreciate the vendors coming all the way out here,” said Ventura. “It’s a gorgeous location with the palm trees and the island feeling.”
For Ventura, who raised her children Sims and Jennings on Sanibel, it has been amazing and surprising to see how the Farmer’s Market has taken off. What started as a little hobby has transformed into a full-time business that runs up and down the coast of Southwest Florida.
“I grew up in Virginia and picked vegetables at farms and so often thought about doing something on Sanibel,” she said. “But it was just an idea and I sat on it for a long time. Finally my friends said, go ahead an do it. I thought, ‘Who do I know who could help make this happen?’”
The answer was fellow islander Jean Baer, a successful businesswoman with operational skills and deep ties in the community. “She’s a go-getter,” said Ventura. “She took the ball and ran with it. We’ve had a great relationship, and our strengths compliment each other. I’m more of the foodie with a restaurant background, and she is a talented event organizer and manager.”
Their Farmer’s Markets has boosted revenue for local businesses by directly connecting them with buyers and giving them larger market share in their ongoing competition with national chains. A number of vendors, said Ventura, have used the markets as launching pad to open their own brick and mortar stores.
“Establishing a farmer’s market at South Seas is like coming home,” said Baer, who got her start on the islands as a Recreation Manager at South Seas in 1988. “This is such a beautiful place, and we are already looking forward to next season.”