Florida market continues tradition of serving up fresh fruits, vegetables

Owner of Keystone Farmers Market quit job in investment finance to buy business
Posted at 12:20 PM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-07 12:20:08-05

ODESSA, Fla. — If you're a foodie hunting for the absolute best ingredients, look northwest of the Tampa Bay skyline toward the town of Odessa.

Keystone Farmers Market located off Tarpon Springs Road has been serving up fresh vegetables, fruits, and local products that customers won't find anywhere else since 1978.

Located on about 10 acres, visitors can walk around 2 acres of garden where employees grow everything from sweet onions to sunflowers. Or you can make your way inside the store for all sorts of products you won't find anywhere else.

Customers can also feed a cow and try the market's famous boiled peanuts, a staple in the community since its days as a humble tomato stand.

"We support local agriculture by helping to connect farmers and producers with customers," owner Jeffrey Bakshis said. "We're sort of that hub where everybody meets."

Bakshis bought the market from its previous owners in 2013 and has been running it for the last 10 years.

But this isn't the first time he has actually been on this particular farm.

"My family moved here in 1989, 1990 and this was one of the few places that was out here," Bakshis said. "It was humble."

He spent those years establishing his love for food and agriculture while playing on the farm after making friends with the family who originally owned it.

"I think my mom used to pay them to let me work up here," Bakshis said with a smile. "They were kind of babysitting."

After college, he left the farm life for the corporate world, taking a job in investment finance.

Part of his job was to do research and look over long periods of history. That was when he noticed a trend that he didn't like concerning where we were going with food supplies, supply chains and how things were being produced.

He saw a lot of room for improvement and decided that for the next chapter of his career, he would remove the tie, get a solid farmers hat and focus on that.

"I was looking out the window thinking, 'Man I'd much rather be picking tomatoes,'" Bakshis said.

That lead him back to Tampa Bay where he purchased the farm from the original owners with the idea of doing things the old-fashioned way. Ten years later, Keystone is going strong.

Visitors can find all sorts of vegetables on the farm and in the market. They produce their own honey and sell it to three other local companies.

You can also buy a smoothie at their market or try their famous boiled peanuts, which they make the same way the original owners did beginning in 1978. Bakshis said time is the secret recipe.

The fruits and veggies in the garden are grown with some of the most innovative technologies in cultivation to get the highest quality vegetables possible.

Jams, jellies, pickles, sweet carrots, avocados, milk, eggs, fresh pasta, meat, candles and plants are also available.

Bakshis said he gets up at about 2-3 a.m. to go "grocery shopping," and get ready for the day.

He works seven days a week with a great group of teammates who customers can see running around the garden and the market. They even have their own fitness center. It's a perk for all their hard work.

All of it comes from one place — a love for food and keeping it the way it's always been.

"I love what I do, and I've always said that if I won the lottery I would still be out here the next day," Bakshis said. "We're making a difference in something that tangibly affects a lot of people's lives."

Keystone Farmers Market is open every day of the week.