Moses Martinez sells fresh tomatoes at the Englewood Farmer’s Market for the Immokalee-based Aurora Produce in October. Sarasota County commissioners may bump up the ratio of food versus merchandise vendors.

ENGLEWOOD — Sarasota County commissioners will consider Wednesday tweaking the ratio of artisans to vegetable and food vendors at Englewood’s farmers markets.

County commissioners will consider at a public hearing changing a county ordinance that will lower the number of arts and crafts, jewelry, health and health services, and other non-food vendors to only 25 percent of the total number of vendors. The county ordinance now allows a 50-50 split between the agrarian and non-agrarian projects sold at farmers markets.

Rather than holding their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday in conflict with election day, commissioners will meet 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Robert L. Anderson Administration Center, 4000 Tamiami Trail, Venice.

If the ordinance is changed, 75 percent of the remaining vendors must sell vegetables, and food items like honey and cheeses, spices, coffees or other products, including specialty and other prepared foods.

Farmers markets are held along West Dearborn Street on Thursdays from October to May. They’ve proven a big success drawing hundreds of people to Dearborn.

The nonprofit Englewood Farmer’s Market was the first in Englewood, opening eight years ago at the Pioneer Plaza on the 300 block of West Dearborn. Joyce Colmar opened her for-profit Dearborn Street Market across the street. Other smaller markets have been sprouting up along and around West Dearborn on Thursdays.

Any change to the ordinance will affect the smaller markets as well as the two larger ones.

Englewood’s Community Redevelopment Agency staff has been meeting with market managers in an ongoing discussion to devise a reasonable formula and enforcement methods for defining and counting the vendors at Englewood’s farmers markets.

Some Dearborn Street brick-and-mortar business owners voiced their complaints to county officials.

“The county has received feedback from merchants expressing that this has increased the number of jewelry and art vendors in the markets, which has resulted in decreased sales in the ‘brick-and-mortar’ businesses,” a planning staff report stated.

“In addition, goods sold at the markets appear to be less expensive than those which could be purchased in one of the local businesses,” the report said.


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