Winter Park Farmers Market is a communal foodie haven

After three decades, the Winter Park Farmers Market continues to be a weekly ritual for locals and even some not-so local. It’s an outdoor bazaar of sights, tastes and scents situated around a charming former freight depot, now the Winter Park Historical Museum. The market meets each Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A ritual for newcomers and seasoned shoppers alike

In addition to fresh foods, visitors can take home a variety of flora.

The farmers market has been in operation since May 17, 1979. Herbert Felder, 77, recalled being among the first of the vendors.

“It’s the place to be, here on a Saturday,” Felder said. “People from all walks of life, just hanging.”

Felder said he drives from his farm in Adel, Ga. to sell his okra and white acre peas in Winter Park each week. He has already driven the white truck, parked behind his stand, approximately 98,000 miles.

“I have two more trucks at home that have 600,000,” he said.

Patti Rubino, a former flea market seller who stood under an Indian River Fruit tent, said it was her first day at this particular market.

After making change for a customer, Rubino said of the atmosphere, “I love talking to people and hearing their stories. Everybody’s so friendly.”

Market radiates sense of family, community

“It’s five hours of fun. It’s a family affair,” said Sharon Brenner from Our Biscotti. Brenner brings her two sons along each week to help set up and sell her organic biscotti and fresh eggs.

Sheltered from the heat under the shade, strangers found places to sit and enjoy purchases, share popcorn and strike up conversations.

“Where are you from? You’ve got to try this,” one woman said to another.

Owners grasped a leash in one hand as they examined orchids or tasted samples with the other, which allowed their poodles, Labrador retrievers, pugs and Chinese crested dogs to mingle and participate in the social affair. Bowls of water placed around the market ensured pet hydration.

On-site farmers market manager Karen Ford said, “We are family – who’s in it (the market) who sells in it, who comes out each week. You can bring your kids here.”

Of course, let’s not forget the food

New tastes await inside the old train depot.

Ford was still licking chocolate off her fingers when asked her favorite part about the market. “Are you kidding?” she asked. “The food!”

Denise Stone, whose stand has been a market favorite for 11 years, said her kettle corn is based on a 250-year-old recipe. The hog fat and molasses have been exchanged for low fat soybean oil and all-natural sugar.

Tommy Schleider sells Italian sausages and chili dogs but acts more like a ham. In response to a question from newlyweds Scott and Lindsay Murrell regarding the lemonade, Schleider called it, “The bomb, man. It’s off the charts.” In his eight years of selling at the market, Schleider revels in putting a smile on his customers’ faces.

After a sip of the lemonade, Lindsay called it “a perfect blend of lemon juice with a kick of sugary sweetness.”

For the best shopping experience, consider these tips:

  • Get there early. The market opens at 7 a.m. every Saturday and gets crowded by 9 a.m.
  • Take advantage of free parking. One lot at the corner of West Welbourne and South New York avenues offers plenty of space just one block away from the market.
  • Bring plenty of reusable shopping bags. If you plan to buy chocolate, bring an insulated thermal lunch bag to prevent melting.
  • Be prepared to shuffle your feet inside the old train depot. It’s guaranteed to be shoulder-to-shoulder, but the aged cheeses and fresh breads offered inside are worth it.

Click here for the City of Winter Park’s Farmers Market

Click here for additional shopping tips from The Splendid Table


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