By Natalie Haddock
Seaside, Florida, is the type of community that embraces the outdoors and a grounded lifestyle. Most restaurants offer outside dining. Backyard concerts are a thing; and people are always getting together on the central green for movies, holidays, and picnics. It is “New Urbanism” in every sense and it encourages people to be well while at the beach by growing in a renewed tradition of community.
Jenifer Kunz is the owner of Raw and Juicy, an organic juice bar and health foods restaurant located at the end of Airstream Row in Seaside. She took notice of Seaside’s unique community setting when moving to the area in 2008 and quickly approached the city’s developers, Robert and Daryl Davis, about starting a health food farmer’s market.
“Seaside reflected the idea of new urbanism with this walking community, and the Davis’s aimed to always incorporate high quality products and ingredients,” said Kuntz. “A farmer’s market was a part of this by using the public area so that people could come in, shop for groceries, even stay and have lunch. In this way we are creating business, local business.”
The market had humble beginnings with only three vendors to start, which were posted next to Raw and Juicy’s Airstream along Hwy 30A. They were friends Kuntz wanted to support, local growers and farmers with good products and with a mission. Now in its 8th year the market averages about 30 vendors each week, enough to line the Seaside amphitheater on both sides. “At first people didn’t want to stop. They didn’t know what I was doing,” said Kuntz.
The mission of the market is to provide an outlet for local farmers, farm products, and other consciously, locally created foods. Daryl Davis had already brought in many stores and businesses to the community that offered fine clothing, furniture, and market items. Kuntz explained that the farmer’s market was one way of growing the community that empowered consumers to learn about seasonality and sustainable practices and enabled them to make active decisions towards the betterment of personal and planetary health.
They didn’t seem to get the concept of “slow food,” she explains. It is food that is not processed, does not use preservatives, and has been harvested in a way that maintains the integrity of the food. Kuntz says that slow food has the most nutritional value and is most in line with nature, so it helps support our health.
“It’s cool, you know, understanding that our food has connection to the earth. We really care about what our people are selling and how they sell it at the market. A lot comes from within a three hour radius so I visit their farms and make sure we can educate our consumer about what they are getting.”
Dragonfly Fields of Defuniak Springs, Florida, is one of the staples of the Seaside farmer’s market each week and is made popular by their fresh arugula and salad mixes. They grow 20-25 different seasonal vegetables without the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides and often sell at the market organic tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, beets, watermelon, radish, and baby sweet potatoes.
Other items found at the farmer’s market include farm fresh eggs and meats, assorted vegetables and fruits, seasonal products, spices, soaps, and honey.
Kuntz and her team make every effort to oversee and regulate each vendor so that the market can provide the highest standards in quality foods, products, and ingredients. Each booth has its own aesthetic and every aspect of production and sale is regulated from growth to labeling.
“I try to nurture the vendors to improve their products and how it looks; to be as clean as they can be and use sustainable packaging too.” All products provided must be produced by the vendor presenting at the market, not repackaged but personally made. When overseeing the meat and egg products at the market, Kuntz makes sure that the farm supplying these does not practice the use a concentrated animal feeding operation, commonly referred to as CAFO, in which the animal is forced into huge feed lots.
The Seaside farmer’s market takes place every Saturday, year round, from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM from Memorial Day to Labor Day and 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM during the “off season.” The market is the perfect place for families, farmers, and friends to meet, mingle and eat. Visitors can pick up groceries for the week or lunch for the day. Ready-to-eat foods include flavorful Turkish dishes, Sri Lankin foods, and even made- to-order crepes. Live music is also available most Saturdays.
“Its super fun and it’s the healthiest way to eat,” said Kuntz. “There are lots of reasons to be there so bring the kids and the dogs. Just slow down. Walk around, be outside, and support your local farmer.”