ODESSA, Fla. — If you’re a foodie looking for the best ingredients, look northwest from the Tampa Bay skyline toward the city of Odessa.
Keystone Farmers Market located just off Tarpon Springs Road, has been serving fresh vegetables, fruits and local produce that customers won’t find anywhere else since 1978.
Set on approximately 10 acres, visitors can stroll through the 2-acre garden, where staff members grow everything from sweet onions to sunflowers. Or you can make your way into the store to find all kinds of merchandise that you won’t find anywhere else.
Customers can also feed the cow and sample the market’s famous boiled peanuts, which have been a staple in the community since the humble tomato shop.
“We support local agriculture by helping connect farmers and producers with customers,” said owner Jeffrey Bakshis. “We are like the center where everyone meets.”
Bakshis purchased the market from the previous owners in 2013 and has been running it for the past 10 years.
But it’s not the first time he’s been to this farm.
“My family moved here in 1989, 1990, and it was one of the few places that was here,” Bakshis said. “It was humbling.”
He spent those years establishing his love for food and farming by playing on the farm after befriending the family that originally owned it.
“I think my mom was paying them to let me work here,” Bakshis said with a smile. “They were like babysitters.”
After college, he left farm life behind for the corporate world, taking a job in investment finance.
Part of his job was to research and review long periods of history. Then he noticed a trend he didn’t like about where we were going with our food supply, supply chains, and how things were made.
He saw a lot of room for improvement and decided that the next chapter of his career would see him ditch the tie, get a solid farmer’s hat and focus on that.
“I was looking out the window and thinking, ‘I’d better be picking tomatoes,'” Bakshis said.
That led him back to Tampa Bay, where he bought a 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 a variety of vegetables at the farm and market. They produce their own honey and sell it to three other local companies.
You can also buy a cocktail at their market or try their famous boiled peanuts, which they have been making just like the original owners since 1978. Bakshis said time is the secret recipe.
The fruits and vegetables in the garden are grown using some of the most innovative technologies in growing to produce the highest quality vegetables.
Jams, jellies, pickles, sweet carrots, avocados, milk, eggs, fresh pasta, meats, candles and plants are also available.
Bakshis said he gets up around 2-3 a.m. to go to the store and get ready for the day.
He works seven days a week with a large group of teammates who customers can see running around the garden and market. They even have their own fitness center. This is a reward for all their hard work.
It all comes from the same place — the love of food and keeping it the way it always has been.
“I love what I do, and I’ve always said that if I won the lottery, I’d still be here the next day,” Bakshis said. “We’re making a difference in something that makes a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
Keystone Farmers Market open every day of the week.