In Hernando County, produce shopping includes farms and a new farmers market

By Megan Reeves

Published March 28 2018

Updated March 28 2018

BROOKSVILLE — As we inch away from the cooler-than-usual winter and closer to summer’s warmth and rain, Hernando County farmers look forward to bountiful harvests. From fruits and veggies to soaps and supplements, much is available locally — especially with a new farmers market in downtown Brooksville.

Organized by the Hernando County Growers Association, a nonprofit agricultural co-operative formed to market locally grown produce, the market debuted Sunday with about 15 vendors. Michael DeFelice, owner of Twelve Oaks Community Farms and president of the association, said he plans to court more vendors from around Hernando and neighboring counties as the spring season progresses.

"I think there’s a lot of positive energy in the community for this type of organization," he said.

The Tampa Bay Times spoke with a handful of farmers who participated in the market, as well as some who didn’t. Here’s a look at what they’re making and growing:

Richard’s Farm • 27132 Hickory Hill Road, Brooksville • 352-279-1511

"If I don’t grow it, I don’t sell it" — that’s Richard Myers’ motto. He and his wife, Roberta, have worked together on their farm for years growing all sorts of vegetables. Their most coveted products, however, come from the moringa oleifera trees they began growing about nine years ago.

Moringa is commonly referred to as a "superfood," said to have extraordinary health benefits that boost the immune system. At Richard’s farm, it’s sold in many forms. The Myers strip leaves from the branches, then sort and air-dry them to make tea, juice them to make soap and grind them into powder that comes loose or in capsules. Seeds and whole trees are for sale too.

Myers said he has used the products regularly since he had a heart attack six years ago, and even his doctor is impressed with the difference in his health and energy. He hopes others who use it will notice good changes, too.

"I will always grow that plant now," Myers said. "I can’t let it go."

The Myers also have a stand where they sell produce, but they don’t set prices. It’s "take what you need, leave what you can," he said.

Now, they have onions, carrots and collard greens available. Soon, the spring crops will be ready: cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, eggplants, peppers and more.

"You name it, I’ve probably got it," Myers said.

Suni Skyz Farm Handcrafted Soaps • 15187 Keller St., Brooksville • 352-584-0225

At Martha Tucker’s house, goats — big and small; black, white and brown; all named after John Denver songs — run free beneath a tall canopy of branches. In the shaded yard, they eat and play, and Tucker, a soap-maker, milks a goat named Cloud.

"Milking them is part of the experience, and it’s the best therapy in the world," she said. "I hear their heart beat in my ear and think, this is what life’s about."