KEYSTONE FARMERS MARKET
By: Deanna Corarito
Playing in the dirt is fun, but also very therapeutic. When Keystone Farmers Market owner Jeff Bakshis returned to Florida from out of state, he found some peace in plants and chose not to return to investment management. Remembering the fun and joy he had as a kid playing and occasionally helping out at the Fernandez family farm that was started in the 1970’s, he reached an agreement about 8 years ago with the family to keep the farm from being developed into housing and began his journey as the new owner of the Keystone Farmers Market on Tarpon Springs Road.
I have my own little addiction to digging in the dirt and talking to my plants, so I really get this desire to connect to the earth, to nurture and grow things from little seeds. Jeff acknowledges that he did not do this alone; it takes a village of sorts. A few years in, as he was figuring out how to grow the market into a viable business, he was supported by local gardeners such as Buddy Rawls as well as Marvin Wilhite of Cahaba Clubs Herbal Outpost who were willing to help. “The garden wouldn’t be here without Marvin’s input and advice” Jeff told me.
Keystone Farmers Market (KFM) is always looking for ways to purchase clean, quality produce and as much as they can, getting produce directly from farmers. If they can get things from local farmers, they always try. Sometimes it’s not possible to grow certain produce in Florida so that takes a bit more detective work for “sussing out to know how this produce is grown and where it comes from” according to Jeff. All produce offered is non-GMO (genetically modified). Though not certified organic, the goal is to “have most produce grown with organic practices, which means it starts out fresher.”
Along with fresh produce, KFM also has a growing selection of Amish foods, Greek foods, grass-fed beef from Providence Cattle Company out of Tampa, fresh pasta from Tampasta, La Segunda bakery products and the Village Bakery – all Florida offerings. This month their Face Book page showed a wall of holiday poinsettia and they have added candles from Sweet Angles candle company too. (Keystone Farmers Market | Facebook) Follow them on Face Book to see daily specials like Tomato Tuesdays – 10% off all tomatoes or the one I missed – all peppers .99 cents a pound!
In the short time that I have lived in Keystone (7 years), I have witnessed KFM grow from a dirt floor farm stand to a burgeoning rural destination. KFM is expanding the amount of produce it is directly growing. This year, Jeff and his staff have planted more than 1000 seeds for the U-Pick area. Last month they even had strawberry plants from the University of Florida for sale that were engineered for our specific area. The next time you need some fresh collard greens or some fresh honey, head on over to the Keystone Farmers Market. You can now suit up in a beekeeper’s suit and have a Beekeeper’s Experience for $30 with Tampa Bay Bees. Plan on spending about an hour to suit up and hang out at the hives and become educated on these essential workers in our fresh food production. You even get to take home a bottle of Tampa Bay Bees honey. What a great gift idea for the adventurous someone in your life! You’ve all seen the “Feed the Cows” sign along Tarpon Springs Road. I was fortunate enough to stop in recently while Danielle Davis from Odessa and her three girls had stopped in to feed the cows. It was a delight to watch! For $2, you get a bucket full of grains and produce to hand feed the cows. Be sure to see Pumpkin, the newest calf that was born on Halloween.
Jeff is also involved with a joint project between the KFM, Metropolitan Ministries and UF/IFAS on a large garden collaborating with people of low resources to create a garden space right outside their chapel. He is working on teaching micro-farming by showing people how to grow small things on their own. He says “social connections help prevent homelessness and (community) gardening helps cultivate social connections. “Gardening can really change your perspective. There is a lot of therapeutic benefit to working with the earth… it is grounding.” Clearly it is, because Jeff seems to really have some terrific priorities.
The next phase of KFM is another expansion that will make room for wares from local artisans which will be a great place to shop locally for gifts and keeping shopping right here within our local community. Jeff has so many ideas for the future. I hope he gets to half of them! To see a video of Keystone Farmers Market on Face Book click here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1147248355637657
KFM has a great staff and is a really cool ambassador to Keystone and beyond. Stop in and pick your own produce, have a bee experience, feed the cows, pick up some grass-fed steaks or fresh pasta, bread and beautiful produce. They also have eggs, milk, butter and beverages as well as Amish jams, jellies and pickles and other kitchen staples. They offer hay, firewood and even Adirondack chairs. Food trucks can also be found at KFM. Most recently, the Chubby Guy’s Phillies and Pies is the latest installment. Be on the lookout for the new artisanal gifts coming soon. If you haven’t been in lately, you have been missing out on this wonderful Keystone gem.
Keystone Farmers Market is located at 12615 Tarpon Springs road in Odessa. They are open Monday and Tuesday from 8:00 am until 7:00 pm, Wednesday through Saturday 9:00 am until 7:00 pm and Sundays 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
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Face Book – https://www.facebook.com/keystonefruitstand