FAMU’s organic food market at Lake Ella brings unity to the community

Every Wednesday from noon to dusk, a piece of the park, Lake Ella, is transformed into an organic food market called the “Grower’s Market at Lake Ella.” Started as an initiative in the community by Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) School of Agriculture and Food Sciences and their FAMU statewide Small Farm program, the “Growers Market at Lake Ella” has managed to stay afloat for the last 13 years.

According to Jennifer Taylor, Ph.D., associate professor and coordinator of Small Farm Programs at the FAMU ‘s College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, the “Growers Market at Lake Ella” was a FAMU initiative.

“We were having a series of workshops about organic farming, organic agriculture, and what it was about. The benefits of organic farming and organic integrated management, all of these different kind of strategies that support organic farming systems,“ said Dr. Taylor.

The development for the “Growers Market at Lake Ella,” didn’t stop at a meeting table.

“They came to me and said, ‘Well Jennifer we actually need a different kind of market, can you help us develop a market?’” continued Dr. Taylor.

According to Dr. Taylor, there are a total of four markets in Tallahassee, but what makes the “Grower’s Market at Lake Ella” so unique is it is the only organic methods market, where only organic farmers are able to sell produce.

The “Grower’s Market at Lake Ella” features many of farmers from surrounding counties who go through strategic planning processes to thoroughly execute a Wednesday at the market.

According to Annette Layton, owner and farmer of Little Eden Heirloom Farm in Crawford, Fla., preparing their produce for sell, is impossible to do at the last minute.

“It really starts months in advance. It’s going to take two to three months for this to harvest. Basically it’s an everyday thing,” Layton said.

According to David Newman, farmer of Ripe City Urban Farm in Tallahassee, Fla., his Wednesdays begin with early morning preparation.

“Wake up fairly early, harvest everything the same day, package it in some kind of bag. Whatever units, I sell each particular item and then put that in the cooler then put it in the truck. Then prepare all of the marketing stuff. It is pretty routine now,” Newman explained.

To the average person, farming may seem like a heavy cross to bear, but to farmers like David Newman and Annette Layton, farming equals steady income and food sustainability.

“It is literally a full-time job. This is the only job we have right now. Every now and then I’ll do some art,” Layton said

“I got passionate about growing food in a healthy and sustainable way. This is my form or major income, I also get into real estate on the side,” explained Newman.

At the “Grower’s Market at Lake Ella” organic food seekers get the opportunity to meet the farmers, without a third party, who nurtured and grew their food. For many of the produce buyers, attending the “Grower’s Market at Lake Ella” every Wednesday is more than just buying produce and going home, but also building relationships with the people in the community.

According to Bennett Hoffman, Little Eden Heirloom Farm’s frequently visiting customer, Little Eden Heirloom Farm is what brings him back to the “Grower’s Market at Lake Ella.”

“They have great stuff, the people are nice. That’s why I like to come to the market because I like to know what I am getting and who I am getting it from,” Hoffman explained.

The diverse love for organic food is what the “Grower’s Market at Lake Ella” used as a great tactic to bring the community together.

According to Dr. Taylor, for the last 13 years after searching for a place to host the market, the Tallahassee community has welcomed the “Grower’s Market” with open arms.

“I searched several places around town that would be a great place to have a market. Somewhere where the community needs to come and see and support—and we got that mix here [Lake Ella] and the people support us."