The same time of year that brings back our northern visitors also delivers a cornucopia of fresh, local, certified-organic produce.

Finding organic isn’t as much of a scavenger hunt as it was when Rhona Winchell moved to Sarasota from California more than two decades ago. In fact, local organic farms are having trouble selling all they grow because so many grocery stores now carry it.

“But if you care about freshness and supporting our local farmers,” said Winchell, who’s been a vegetarian for more years than she can count, “you should buy locally grown.”

Among local sources are Punta Gorda’s Worden Farm, Arcadia’s Aloe Organics and Winchell’s own Yellow Submarine Organic Co-op.

Worden spreads the word

Worden Farm, an 85-acre USDA-certified organic family farm at 34900 Bermont Road, Punta Gorda, since 2003, makes its produce available at farmers markets and through farm memberships.

Eva Worden, well known for spreading the local organic gospel, said, “Once people understand it, it becomes very clear that it’s a good choice for health and the environment.”

Worden offers three types of memberships: the Worden Farm stand in Punta Gorda, where members may purchase fresh produce Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. during season; prepacked organic veggie boxes, delivered to 20 local drop-off sites every Wednesday from December to April; and farmers markets in downtown Sarasota, Saturdays 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., downtown St. Petersburg, Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Lakewood Ranch, Wednesdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit www.wordenfarm.com.

A legacy grows organically

When Allison “Aloe” Hall Nelson was diagnosed at 28 with metastatic breast cancer, she changed her approach to nutrition at her doctors’ insistence.

Under the tutelage of Eva and husband Chris Worden, Nelson’s family dedicated a 6-acre parcel of their Arcadia cattle ranch to organically grown, pesticide-free produce which could be sold and donated to young cancer patients through the Children’s Cancer Center of Tampa.

Although Allison succumbed after three years, her legacy — the certified-organic Aloe Organics of Arcadia — is thriving.

Her mother, Kay Hall, said, “Allison did all of us in the family a great service by giving us this mission, to make something good out of something so bad.”

Aloe Organics sells its produce Wednesdays at Phillippi Farmhouse Market in Sarasota from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays at Boca Grande Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit aloeorganics.com.

They all live on the Yellow Submarine

Why not simply buy your organic produce at one of the many grocery stores that now stock it?

According to Rhona Winchell, “There’s a huge difference. Supermarket organic veggies sat on a truck, in a warehouse and in the stores for weeks, and don’t last as long. The lettuce that I pick up on Tuesday, for delivery on Tuesday, has just come out of the ground. You can’t get any fresher.”

For the last 20 years, Winchell has been delivering weekly or biweekly bags of high-quality local fruits, greens, herbs and vegetables. She tries to buy as much as possible from local farmers, as well as from Albert’s Organics Sarasota, the first certified-organic distributor with nationwide coverage. Even when local farms shut down over the summer, you can count on her to use Albert’s to continue delivering 52 weeks a year.

And if you can’t get to a central pickup point or a farmers market for your organic produce, Winchell’s Yellow Submarine Organic Co-op might just bring it to your door.

“It’s like a surprise package every time you get it. Some things, I don’t know what they are, but Rhona will give you ideas on how to cook them,” said Babs Vitale of Venice, who’s been receiving deliveries from Yellow Submarine for more than a year and distributing them to her IslandWalk neighbors.

Check the Yellow Sub Facebook page for produce coming to regular Tuesday pickups at IslandWalk; at Ionie Retreat & Organic Vegan Café, 1241 Fruitville Road in Sarasota; and at Tang Martial Arts Center, 5706 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. Coming soon: one more pickup location, still being confirmed, in North Port.

Yellow Submarine Organic Co-op can be reached at 941-416-1363 or on Facebook @YellowSubCoop. A membership is $27 per bag, renewable month to month. Special delivery to your door has an additional charge depending on location.

More than a sub shop

It was an epic double entendre when Charlotte Harbor’s Charlie’s Subs & Grill began advertising itself as “not just a sub shop.”

Charlie’s is equally well known not only for entrees and catering, but also for supporting the community and fellow small business owners at every opportunity.

Big-hearted owners Julio Aguilar and Walter Jimenez were planning a benefit for the Sabino family, who lost their Port Charlotte home and 11 pets in a tragic pre-Christmas fire, when they came to a harsh realization.

“It doesn’t matter how good we are, if customers don’t come through that door,” said Aguilar.

Last Friday, they planned to close the doors on their four-year-old business for one last time.

The perennial Charlotte Sun Readers’ Choice finalist for Catering, Cheesesteaks, Wraps & Paninis had been hurt since summer by a triple whammy of hidden location, new eatery openings and proliferating third-party delivery services.

“It is what it is. We’re moving on,” said Aguilar. “Just not in the food industry.”

The community and the local food industry will be the worse for it.

Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at suewade47@aol.com.

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