FORT MYERS, Fla. — The oldest restaurant in Lee County is changing with the times. The Farmers Market Restaurant in Fort Myers is expanding and adding new ways to buy and sell local produce.
“The State of Florida which is the property that we are on, that we lease our restaurant from has a building back here that you see that’s going to be like farmers market stalls. So the Farmers Market Restaurant has committed to lease 3 of the stalls so that we can bring fresh produce again, fresh fish again, and fresh barbeque to the community,” said Betsy Barnwell, owner of the Farmers Market Restaurant.
Barnwell says after Hurricane Irma, she was curious about what was going to replace the old farmers market, and after working with the state and committing to 1 stall, she wanted to expand and help provide fresh produce for her business.
“We’re going to have someone that runs the produce market, they are going to go each week, they are going to go Immokalee, or wherever and pick up from the best supplies which I’m starting to reach out to, bring it to the farmers market to sell and we will use it at the restaurant too and it will definitely be more farm to table type of thing,” said Barnwell.
It's been a challenging few months Barnwell after shutting her doors, moving to take out, and laying off more than half of her employees, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barnwell says she lost a lot but she’s working to gain it back.
“ I really think we’ve got to spread ourselves out and spread our wings, and think of more ways to bring it more revenue to keep the restaurant open, and maybe with the 3 farmers market stalls I can hire everybody back,” said Barnwell.
Barnwell says not only is she expanding to benefit her restaurant but for the betterment of the community.
“To put more money into businesses is scary right now, but I feel like the community needs it, we need to move on from COVID and we have to think of new ideas. People need food, people need community, and people do miss the farmers market that was here,” said Barnwell.