By the numbers, the Jacksonville Farmers Market is 75 years old, encompasses 9 acres just west of Downtown along Beaver Street, accommodates 40-55 vendors daily from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., attracts 25,000 to 30,000 weekly visitors and generates annual sales of at least $15 million to $20 million.
By the products, the market features the colorful panoply of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, artisan breads, smoked meats, honey, syrups, spreads and jams, boiled peanuts, eggs, juices organic foods, baked goods and plants.
And within those broad descriptions are items such as Tupelo honey, stalks of sugar cane, lemongrass, live blue crabs, smoked mullet, olives and pickles, sweet-potato butter, Chinese eggplant, dragon fruit, Tennessee tomatoes and organic pet treats.
The season is evident as well. Chestnuts, citrus and pumpkins are featured in the dozens of boxes, bins and displays.
There's also the Andy's Farmers Market Grill restaurant, which is open for breakfast and lunch.
"The goal is to make it a destination point for the Southeast," market General Manager Greg Tison said Thursday between tasks, including taking temporary delivery of a 1930 Ford, to set up for today's events.
Today, the market, at 1810 W. Beaver St., officially celebrates its 75th anniversary and plans a VIP lunch scheduled to include remarks by Mayor Alvin Brown, Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, Beaver Street Fisheries Inc. Chairman Harry Frisch, Edward Waters College President Nat Glover and others. About 200 people are expected.
Saturday and Sunday, the events continue and include a food truck rally, children's activities, nonprofit displays, musical entertainment, classic cars and farm equipment, and food demonstrations.
Jacksonville-based Beaver Street Fisheries owns the market. CFO Jeff Edwards envisions the market expanding to take more of the 9-acre site and making use of a closed grocery store it owns there.
Should the community support it, he said that center could feature a butcher shop, dairy products, wine and cheese sales, specialty foods, candy, craft beer, kitchen ware, a restaurant, a meeting room, a cooking demonstration kitchen, and a florist.
Or, as he said, "a whole shopping experience."
The market is off Interstate 95 and not far from I-10. Edwards and Tison not only want to attract customers from the area, but specifically invite Downtown workers to take the mile or so trek west to eat lunch, buy products and patronize the local business.
The Jacksonville Farmers Market is set up to accommodate wholesale and retail sales. Restaurants, churches, institutions and produce stores and stands often shop the wholesale vendors. The retail side markets to general customers.
Vendors bring their goods from Northeast Florida and beyond. "'Local' is the closest point" of availability, Edwards said.
The market operates every day, including holidays. It was opened in 1938 and rebuilt in 2006-07. Some vendors are long-term while others are seasonal or once in a while. Many have built followings.
"There are not many institutions that last 75 years or more," Edwards said. "The market fills a need in the community."
Amazon chooses Tampa for center
Tampabay.com reported Thursday that Amazon.com has closed on a deal to create a distribution center in Ruskin, in south Hillsborough County, and that construction on the 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse facility is expected to start immediately.
There is a local connection, by the way. Ron Barton, former executive director of the former Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, is the economic development director for Hillsborough County.
Tampabay.com said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said the deal brings more than 1,000 permanent jobs along with nearly that many seasonal jobs every year as well as construction jobs.
According to Tampabay.com, Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. closed on the sale of the land to insurance company USAA on Wednesday, and that USAA has obtained a long-term lease with Amazon to occupy the site. No opening date has been set.
The Seattle-based Internet retailer announced in June that it plans to open fulfillment centers in Florida for shipping books, electronics and other consumer products.
In July, Hillsborough commissioners voted to waive half of the county portion of Amazon's property tax bill for the first seven years after it builds the center, or about $6.4 million.
In June, they approved $1.1 million to be paid out in installments over four years in exchange for the company creating 375 "well-paying" jobs, defined as paying 15 percent more than the average state wage, or $47,581.
Polk County also offered incentives for a center.
Amazon.com didn't respond to a request to confirm the announcement.
Amazon.com is expected to choose a second site for a Florida fulfillment center and Northeast Florida is said to be under review.
Maybe Barton will put in a good word for north Florida.
More bridge construction
The Florida Department of Transportation will hold an "informational construction open house" from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the Arlington Congregational Church, 431 University Blvd. N., about replacing the Arlington River Bridge on University Boulevard
Construction is scheduled to start about Nov. 4.
Department engineers and construction personnel will be available to answer questions and provide information about construction schedules, traffic impacts and other project issues.
In the meantime, the department continues to work toward repairs of the Mathews Bridge, which has been closed for two weeks since a ship rammed it.
The Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants Jacksonville Chapter scheduled its members' awards and scholarship banquet for 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday at The University Club. Outstanding members will be honored and scholarships will be presented to accounting students at area colleges and universities. For information, email [email protected] or visit ficpa.org and search under "chapters."
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