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Open-air vendors offer treats for the healthy

On any given Saturday, vendors sell fresh produce in downtown Zephyrhills. There's even gourmet dog biscuits.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 20, 2002


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Russ and Ann Root said they go everywhere on their bikes -- to the post office and the library. Last weekend, they went to the farmer's market in Zephyrhills.

And, although there was only one vendor, they weren't disappointed.

The bananas and cucumbers they bought looked fresh and firm.

"We eat healthy, no junk food," said the 76-year-old Mrs. Root.

The Main Street Zephyrhills' Farmers Market began Nov. 3 and has run each Saturday except Jan. 5 when the weather was deemed too cold. Usually at least five vendors offer a variety of goods, including flowers, honey, fruit, vegetables and gourmet dog biscuits.

"I wanted to make it a real farmer's market," said Marvin Matteson, a board member of Main Street, the organization that sponsors the market in downtown Zephyrhills. "If you grow something or make something, we want you here."

Matteson said the City Council allows vendors to participate without buying a permit. The market is open from 9 a.m. to noon and space is free for the vendors, who must bring their own tables.

"Main Street buys one massive permit a year to cover things like this," he said.

He hopes shoppers will know that the market is open every week.

Pat Kirkland, who works for Weicht Farms of Zephyrhills, says she has been there every week with fruits and vegetables.

"We do good," she said. "A lot of people come and are disappointed when they don't see much. We don't bring everything here, so I send them over to our stand on Dean Dairy Road."

On Jan. 12, she had plump red strawberries, navel oranges, grapefruit, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and bananas.

Daniel Koser of Brooksville brought a quart of the camerosa strawberries.

"They are the best-flavored strawberries there are," he said.

Val Burgett of Zephyrhills tries to come to the market every week.

"Nice fresh vegetables are important to me," she said as she bought some tomatoes.

"We started talking, at the store, about bacon and tomato sandwiches, so I came over to get some tomatoes," she said.

Burgett works with her daughter and son-in-law at Lamplighter Furniture across the street from the market.

Matteson puts out free coffee and pastry and entertains customers with CDs of 1950s music.

Even though Kirkland was the only vendor present that day, she had a steady stream of customers.

Gaylord and Yvonne Paige came from Brandon to visit friends and they dropped by to browse. They bought tomatoes and strawberries.

"We'll try them and let you know if we like them," said Paige.

-- Staff writer Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 909-4612 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4612. Her e-mail address is jones@sptimes.com.

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