Katherine Franklin of East Lake was one of many who came out in the rain to support the first monthly farmer's market Nov. 2 at East Lake Community Library.
PALM HARBOR – Even the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the vendors and patrons of the first monthly farmer’s market at East Lake Community Library Nov. 2.
“This has already exceeded my expectations, even on the first market,” said library manager Colleen Davis. “The market went extremely well, despite the monsoon. It really didn’t hold a whole lot of people back. They just came with their umbrellas and rain slickers.”
Davis came up with the idea after Palm Harbor Library Director Gene Coppola, then acting director for East Lake, challenged her to come up with a way the library could be used in the community. Amidst the controversy of the outgoing library director, Davis said she wanted to bring “some positive press back into this library again.”
She considered a community garden, but decided right away that she didn’t want to pull weeds in the heat of the summer.
“One sleepless night, it just hit me: a farmer’s market,” she said.
To start, she merely advertised in the front of the library that vendors were needed for a coming farmer’s market. The response was “incredible,” she said.
A total of 23 vendors made it out to the library Nov. 2, despite the rain. Davis said she was surprised and pleased with the creativity of the local talent.
“It’s nice. I’m just amazed at who’s all coming out,” she said. “The prices that people were selling their product were very reasonable.”
Shoppers were most pleased with the variety of the vendors, she said. The market boasted a gluten-free baker and a candlestick maker, organic and non-organic produce, a local beekeeper selling honey, vendors offering homemade soap, olive oil and dressings, doggie biscuits and pet beds made of repurposed sweaters, homemade greeting cards, organic gardening products, handcrafted jewelry, mixes for wine slushies and artistically designed gourds.
The variety was purposeful. The market has a committee that approves each vendor, Davis said.
“We don’t want to produce competition at this point. I don’t think that’s good for any vendor,” she explained. “We’re not big enough to have more than one vendor selling their product.”
The committee was choosy, wanting to avoid nationally marketed products.
“I’m very specific about my vision for this farmer’s market,” Davis said.
In fact, about 75 percent of the vendors were from the north county area.
“There’s a lot of talent in this East Lake corridor,” Davis said. “There’s something about it coming out of here that makes it thrilling to me.”
Davis said she’s already looking forward to the next market, set for Saturday, Dec. 7, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the library, 4125 East Lake Road.
Already more vendors than before have signed up for the December market. Additions include a vendor selling hand-knitted scarves made out of funky fiber, new jewelry artists, a massage therapist charging by the minute and a selection from the Cheese Lodge of New Port Richey.
The market raised $545 in donations through its first month, funds that will go directly back into its ongoing operation. Davis said she’d like to provide electricity to vendors who need it, for starters.
The farmer’s market is part of the library’s new strategy to become a community center for East Lake residents.
“I just want to bring the community together,” Davis said. “I want people to know that the library is more than just books and DVDs.”
The library’s marketing campaign for 2014 will be “New year, new hours.”
“With that comes along new programs and things like the farmer’s market,” Davis said. “We’ve got a lot coming up that I think the patrons and public will be very pleased to see.”
The market will be held on the first Saturday of the month, November through May, the coolest months of the year, Davis said. Because library staff knows that its parking is always a problem, additional parking will be available at Cypress Woods Elementary School, easily accessible via sidewalks.
For details about upcoming markets and to register as a vendor online, visit the library’s website, www.eastlakelibrary.org, and look for the link to the farmer’s market. For more information, call market manager Heather Ludlam at 612-8666.
About East Lake Farmer’s Market
• First Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• East Lake Community Library, 4125 East Lake Road