7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, year-round
Along Lemon Avenue, First Street and State Street, Sarasota, (941) 225-9256
The granddaddy of them all, Sarasota’s downtown Saturday market attracts more than 520,000 visitors a year, with local produce, coffee vendors, a fishmonger and a whole mess more. It’s a scene as well as a food-shopping mecca, where you’ll run into friends and neighbors, many with their kids and dogs. During the fall-to-spring growing season, check out the Worden Farm stand. The family-run Punta Gorda farm sells exceptional greens, herbs and more. Find mushrooms grown by Mr. Fun Guy, munch on empanadas baked by The Empanada Girl and head home with some potted herbs grown by Wild Side Farms.
9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, October-May
Along Old Main Street, Bradenton, (941) 932-1154
Operated by the nonprofit Realize Bradenton, this seasonal market is a great low-key destination on cool autumn mornings, with organic offerings from nearby farms, plus jams and pickles made from local ingredients by Sunshine Canning. One bonus: The market accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program money (aka food stamps) as payment, opening it up to all visitors.
8 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays, year-round
4180 47th St., Sarasota, (941) 363-1586
Situated on nearly five acres of land smack in the middle of suburban Sarasota, Jessica’s grows and sells some of the region’s best greens, herbs, root vegetables, fennel and peppers. Look closely at the celery and you’ll see the difference: while the grocery-store variety is white at the bottom, Jessica’s is deep green from frond to root. That extra coloring means extra flavor. In addition to what's grown here, Jessica’s stocks a selection of regional produce, as well as raw milks and cheeses. Here’s an institution that was feeding us fresh and local before those terms became fashionable.
9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays, October-April
5500 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 861-5000
No need to wait until the weekend to stock up on fresh food. This big, seasonal Wednesday-morning market draws a hungry crowd thanks to the glazed doughnut genius of Peachey's Baking Company, the outstanding pies of Polpo Pizza Co. and the always terrific coffee from O & A Coffee and Supply. Once you’re full and caffeinated, stock up on honey and fresh produce and explore the pretty setting on the grounds of the creekside Phillippi mansion, with a playground where the kids can work off that sugar rush.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, year-round
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 2523 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota, (941) 544-3262
This small market specializes in fresh produce and even offers to pre-slice fruits and vegetables for customers if they place their orders ahead of time. Groceries can also be delivered to homes within one mile of the market, which sets up in a pleasant park along Whitaker Bayou.
8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, June-September; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, October-May
Along Tampa Avenue, Venice
South County folks show up every weekend to stroll this small market’s mix of nursery-grown herbs, grass-fed ground beef and bison, and hot and cold brews from Venetian Coffee Roasters. It’s right in the heart of the island of Venice, with all sorts of shops and eateries just steps away. Like the Bradenton market, the Venice market accepts payment through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Food stamp recipients can also double the value of their benefits here by purchasing Florida-grown organic produce through a program called Fresh Access Bucks.
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, year-round
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, 8330 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch, (941) 556-8300
Expect to find seafood, eggs, meat, milk, cheese, bread, butter, cold-pressed juices, jams, pickled goods, fresh pasta, ready-to-eat meals, honey, soap, truffle oils, mushrooms, popcorn, Gulf sea salt and knife sharpening. Dogs are welcome as long as they remain on leashes and are well-behaved.
8 a.m.-noon Wednesdays, October-March
Cool Today Park, 18800 S. West Villages Parkway, Venice, (941) 445-9209
Managed by the same team that oversees the Venice market, the list of vendors at this North Port market includes a number of names familiar from other local farmers’ markets, like Maggie’s Seafood, Mr. Fun Guy, Fermentlicious and more. Participating vendors come from Sarasota, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Englewood, Bradenton and beyond.