Sarasota County Blog

Make Your Holiday Table A Local One

Make your holiday table one that sets the bar high for all other years. Enjoy our list of local food shopping options.

As we begin planning, preparing and shopping for our special holiday menus we often find ourselves in crowded grocery stores, standing in long lines, faced with limited parking - all occurring amidst a sea of impatient shoppers.

It's a daunting thought, isn't it?

But your shopping experience doesn't have to be an unpleasant journey. There is a delightful alternative for holiday food shopping with no lines and a relaxing drive through the countryside. And it is right here.

Sound interesting? Are you in?

Regional farms in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte County are prepared to help with your holiday shopping needs, and provide a unique experience with no lines, personable help, and best of all - fresh local food. Plus, you get that "wonderful" feeling with the knowledge that you are supporting farmers and locally grown food.

There are many farms to choose from depending on the items on your shopping list. You might want to start with the Local Farm Guide, available at the Sarasota County Visitor Center in downtown Sarasota, that provides a full list of locally owned and operated farms.

Another way to shop is to visit one of nearly 20 Farmer's Markets that are open daily throughout the area. Also, while shopping for your food items, you can pick up holiday gift items like local honey, jams and jellies.

If you are looking for fresh vegetables, there are dozens of local farms providing a bountiful harvest of lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, squash, zucchini, beets and potatoes to get you started. Brown's Grove, Campbell's Farm, Hi Hat Ranch, Seneca Farms and O'Brien Family Farms are prepared to help you with your veggie needs. For those preferring organic choices, visit Jessica's Organic Farm and Worden Farm (at the Downtown Sarasota Saturday Farmers Market).

For fresh eggs and dairy products such as milk, ice cream and milk shakes, try Myakka City's Dakin Dairy Farms, the only dairy farm in Florida open to the public. A visit to Dakin Farms also makes for an ideal family outing to experience a working farm, enjoy an old-fashioned farm tour and even have lunch at their café.

Winter is the best time for fresh Florida citrus so now is the time to add oranges, tangerines and grapefruit to your menu. There are three main local groves that will help fulfill your old-timey Authentic Florida tradition of holiday citrus. Try Bradenton's Mixon Fruit Farms, Nokomis Groves near Venice and Brown's Grove in Parrish. A stop at Mixon farms is an all-inclusive special trip where you can taste fresh-squeezed orange juice, or even enjoy an Orange Swirl Ice Cream Cone while choosing your fruit. You may even want to peek into the packinghouse where the fruit is being processed. Brown's Grove is always present at several of the local Farmers Markets or daily at their Parrish Farm & Market Store. And Nokomis Groves, surrounded by orange groves, provides fresh fruit, ready to take home in neatly packed bags. The shop also sells Florida honey, jams, jellies, candies and gifts. If you can't make it to the groves, all three have online shipping.

To fill out your holiday menu Sarasota's Seneca Farms provides a special treat - fresh farm-raised turkeys dressed and ready to take home for you holiday spread. For more main course meal items and local farm-raised meats, try Detwiler Market and Whole Foods; they work with and source from area farms. And since we are in Florida, it is quite common for seafood to be the main holiday meal. Stone crab is the delicacy of choice, but Florida lobster and fresh locally caught seafood is hard to beat for special festivities. Star Fish Company, Big Water Fish Market or Walt's Seafood Market & Restaurant will provide fresh "off the boat" seafood.

To complement your holiday meals, you may want to try local wines by visiting Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery and Rosa Fiorelli Winery in eastern Manatee County. Bunker Hill Winery is a 23-acre working Florida farm winery specializing in seven different varieties of Muscadine grapes. Bring your friends for a tasting and complimentary vineyard tour. Not far away is where Rosa and Antonio Fiorelli began making wine after they moved here from Italy when they became smitten with the local area and its similarity to their native Sicily. The Fiorellis also feature winery tastings of their award-winning wines, available for purchase. Both wineries provide online sales.

So have yourself a merry little Authentic Florida holiday. No matter what is on your holiday shopping list, local farmers are bringing in fresh produce, citrus, meats and seafood. It's a great way to make this the tastiest local holiday season ever.

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