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Civic & Community Corner: NFM Farmers’ Market Saturdays at the Shell Factory

January 25, 2017
By Mike Land , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Well, the North Fort Myers Farmers' Market, sponsored by the NFM Civic Association, debuted on Jan. 7, after a change in last year's location and day of operation, but the rain that plagued last year's market continued on this year's initial offering. One of the fruit merchants was hawking a "rainy day special" of one dollar for a basket of strawberries or blueberries.

Notwithstanding, we shall continue undaunted every Saturday through the end of April, rain or shine.

The following Saturday was sunny and warm and brought rows and rows of merchants and the aisles were full of patrons, which the operators of the Farmers' Market and the Flea Market which exist side-by-side on Saturdays, Richard Dunmire and Jerry Johnson, say are about 1,000 people on a nice day.

One customer was walking a live, long-horned cow down an aisle - another was driving a fuscia scooter in the aisles wearing a fuscia outfit from head to toe, with matching hat, shoes and nail polish. In short, this is an unparalleled place for people watching!

One of the unexpected pleasures was a yellow food truck with all manner of goodies including a cooked hard shell crab for only two bucks. So, come on out for farm-to-table freshness, gorgeous and delicious fruits and veggies and much, much more in food-related products.

And calling all merchants or aspiring merchants and crafters! All you need is a county license, tables or a tent and ten bucks and you can lease a space as big as you need with adjacent parking space for your vehicle. Set up by 7 a.m. and sell till noon. That's a cost of only two bucks an hour.

And most of all, stop at the North Fort Myers Civic Association's Welcome Tent at the westerly entrance to the market and talk with us - we answer questions and we listen to your comments and suggestions for improving NFM. We have handouts, a coupon for Perkins Restaurant, and soon a complete map of NFM showing all communities, houses of worship, public buildings and parks and points of interest. And the biggest bargain of all the bargains there is: the TEN BUCKS FOR ANNUAL DUES in the Civic Association, giving you the opportunity for leadership training and helping us to improve OUR TOWN.

The NFM Civic Association met, as usual, on the second Tuesday of the month Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the N.F.M. Recreation Center where the following transpired:

* Our guest speaker, Randy Krise, commercial real estate broker, discussed a vacant 5.5-acre parcel of ground along Hancock Bridge Parkway behind Publix and next to Moody River Estates with access to water leading to the Caloosahatchie River which could be used to launch kayaks, canoes and rowboats. He proposed that the county, or 20/20 Lands purchase it to use as a park. After his presentation, the Civic Association passed a motion that the NFMCA supports the creation of a committee to explore the acquisition of 4055 Hancock Bridge Parkway by Lee County or the 20/20 Lands Program for use as a public park. Peg Crishal will head this committee.

* Brenda Sizemore was elected to fill a seat on our Board of Directors. Brenda resigned that seat a few months ago, because the company in which she is a part owner, River's Edge Apartments, purchased two nearby trailer parks along Business 41 and she had to supervise the renovations. Now that it is complete, she is returning to our Board as our Merchant Liaison and Head of Goals and Projects.

* We "adopted" Business 41 from Edison Bridge to Littleton Road, a distance of 2.8 miles, and our obligation is to remove trash from the roadside under the auspices of the Florida Department of Transportation, using the picker-uppers, trash bags, gloves and safety vests they provide. We will be doing the cleanup on a weekend towards the end of February or the beginning of March and would sure appreciate several volunteers to help. Contact me. Teenagers welcome also. We have been doing this for the last three or four years, and it has taken no more than three hours. The more volunteers the less work each of us need to do, and the quicker it can be done. Do your bit for the beautification of NFM. Also, I intend to ask the FDOT to landscape the new median strip at the northern end of Business 41 created a few years ago when that section was widened.

* Moved, that we undertake the STORM DRAIN MARKER PROGRAM of Keep Lee County Beautiful, where we will be installing emblems in the concrete around all the storm water drains in NFM, reminding the public that any pollutants placed in a street drain, including pet waste and plastic bags, go directly into the river. There are thousands of drains in NFM and we are calling for VOLUNTEERS to contact me to help, with or without a partner, and at your own pace, using KLCB's equipment and supplies, and 5 minutes of training, to help us clean up our main natural asset, the Caloosahatchie River, that forms our complete southern border all 18 miles of it!

* Approved a modest fundraiser sponsored by Perkins Restaurants called "DINE TO DONATE," where we have 150 distinctive green and white coupons to distribute to potential Perkins' eaters who present this coupon with their food check, and we get a donation by Perkins equal to 10 percent of your bill. So please help us fund administrative costs, our insurance premiums and our projects. These coupons are good until June 30, so you've got about 5 months' of eating to help us. These coupons can be obtained at our welcome tent at the Shell Factory Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings; contact me and I will mail you some, or you can pick them up at 3 convenient locations. Folks at the southern portion of NFM can get them at 1100 River Road by calling 297-1418; those in the middle part of town by calling 543-1364 and getting them at Sabal Springs; and those more northerly at Herons Glen by calling me-number at the bottom. So. if you'd like to help us without it costing you (you've got to eat anyway), get a few coupons and keep them handy in your glove compartment, purse or briefcase. But we've only got 150, so please don't take them and not use them.

* We are in the final stage of our North Fort Myers Promotional Brochure, which will go to its second printing soon, 9,000 copies to be distributed to various local, county and state agencies to promote development, tourism, jobs and more. If you would like your business to be in here, contact me.

* Our First Vice President, Rudy Berndlmaier, has single-handedly produced The Complete Map of North Fort Myers, showing all the streets, communities, houses of worship, parks and public buildings, points of interest and selected businesses. If you would like your business shown on the map, and/or a business card or larger advertisement on the flip side, which will be widely disseminated and on our website, and advertised on the super digital sign of Snowbird Station on Hancock Bridge Parkway, call me.

The next meeting of the Civic Association poses a problem. Our regular meeting night is the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. but that is Valentine's Day, and I recognize that some romantics may not appear. But we have found that when we change the customary date, even if we post the change on our website, Facebook page and an email to all of our members and our friends and followers, many will miss or forget the notices and show up at the usual time anyway, and become annoyed at us. And to make matters worse, that is also the night of our Annual Membership Meeting, when our officers get elected for a one-year term and some Directorships will be filled for a three-year term. So, what I am going to propose to our Board is that we keep the meetings as usual, but have a group Valentine's Day Dinner at Perkins using our Dine to Donate coupons from 5:30 to 6:30, followed by a short meeting at the Rec Center at 7, and hopefully our spouses and significant others will attend the meeting because they couldn't bear to be separated from us on this special day!

All 5 officer slots and 2 directorships are being elected, so if any member or a new member want to throw their hat in the ring, call me.

And a reminder to our 90 members as of the end of 2016: the 2017 dues are due now-$10 for a single, $15 for a family of up to 3 and $35 for a business. By the way, we had a temporary glitch in our post office box so if you sent us any mail and it was returned, re-send it.

And join our fight as The Voice of the People of North Fort Myers to make Our Town better!

The County conducted a Public Showing of the preliminary floor plans and elevations for our new $13 million library occurred at the Rec Center on Jan. 12. Before a large crowd, Kevin Williams of BSSW Architects, reviewed the drawings which by and large met with enthusiastic approval from the public and the library staff.

I personally was disappointed that there was no area for the beginnings of a NFM Cultural Arts Center, and that the exterior was very modern, as opposed to the "Old Florida" architecture required by the NFM Land Development Code which our NFM Community Planning Panel was able to get enacted by the county after 6 years of work. Strange that it contrasts so starkly with the Recreation Center next door built by the county just three years ago.

If the county intends to someday develop a county complex of buildings in this area, perhaps someday housing the Tax Collector, sheriff, and many offices presently housed in downtown Fort Myers at greater expense, it makes sense that they all have a similar appearance. Hopefully, modifications will be made.

I was glad to see that the plans included an exterior plaza capable of holding about two hundred people for concerts, events, festivals and other activities which could promote municipal pride and participation.

After three years of asking the County Commissioners and Lee Tran to create a Bus Stop at the Recreation Center and Library, it happened as of Jan. 5. Bus Route # 590 now stops there one minute after each hour from 7:01 a.m. to 8:58 p.m. 6 days a week and on Sundays at 10:05, 11:45, 1:25, 3:05 and 4:45.

And the free trolley of Downtown Fort Myers now comes over the Caloosahatchee River and picks up and drops off at Rt. 41 and N. Key Drive every 25 minutes except Sundays, and as late as 10:55 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. See their schedule online at for details.

The NFM Community Planning Panel and Design Review Panels meet jointly the first Tuesday of the month, 6 p.m. at the Rec Center. And so, they met on January third to consider an application of Juan Amador and Yordon Enriquez for a special use exception to the C-2 commercial zoning of a half -acre parcel of ground at 1069 N. Tamiami Trail to permit open storage and overnight parking of business vehicles, RV's and other such vehicles.

James Hancock, a neighbor residing in the nearby Port Edison area, opposed the application because it would increase noise levels in the area, as this property backs up to a residential area and loud backup noises at very early and very late hours would be problems. Members of the Panels expressed concern about the lack of landscaping and buffers, the fact that no new construction was planned, the negative effect that approval might have on surrounding property values and the fact that the property was located within the Town Center area and this use does not fit in the vision that the Panels and Lee County share for the future development of this area. Panelist Charlie Krebs felt that the proposed use was an "inconsistent use."

Panelists Gregg Makepeace, Jack Hess, John Gardner, Jack Howerton and Dick Thomas all spoke against the proposal and the Panel unanimously recommended that the County decline the request for a special exception. The next day, Eric Feichthaler, attorney for the applicants, sent an email to the Panel advising that the applicants were withdrawing the proposal and were abandoning their contract to purchase the property.

Sunday, Jan. 29, is the Gumbofest at The Shell Factory, featuring live music, entertainment, foods and numerous stands selling gumbo and vying for the title of "Best Gumbo."

Through the generosity of Ric Tupper, Chief Financial Officer of the Shell Factory, the Civic Association will be manning its Welcome Tent at the event, making friends, distributing handouts and Perkins coupons, recruiting new members, answering questions and listening to the public's ideas. Stop and say "hello".


Contact me at 239-823-3631 or mikThe Shell if you have some event, project or idea that you would like in this column, or with any comments or questions.



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