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Pinellas County Asian farmers market shares food, culture in Tampa Bay

The collection of various vendors and local produce growers work together to share rich Asian culture with Tampa Bay.

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — On Sundays, you'll find parking spots few and far between around England Brothers Park. Cars fill the parking lots and hundreds of people, some carrying reusable grocery bags and others rolling shopping carts, head toward the looping trails at the park to stock up on things you won't find inside your local grocery store.

"Some people even come from out of state and visit here...My wife streams on Facebook live every week and shows people what we're bringing to the market and we'll sell out right away because people want the produce and fresh fruits we have," said Cayden Nguyen, a fresh produce vendor at the Pinellas Asian Farmers Market. 

He and his wife bring locally grown produce to the market, like starfruit from his own tree, jujubes from Miami, sapote, custard apples also known as cherimoya and other fruits and vegetables that are difficult to find at big chain grocers.

The weekend market at England Brothers Park is a newer affair. Many of the vendors used to sell at the Wagon Wheel Flea market, but after it closed they had nowhere to go. 

Shawn Yang works for Hillsborough County but saw the need for a market for many Asian vendors who rely on income from their weekend sales. "I reached out to the city of Pinellas Park and asked, 'What can we do to help these people?' and we started this market. About 80 percent of them are produce vendors, but we also have people selling collectibles, pre-made food and plants," said Yang. 

Yang chose Pinellas Park for the market because of the density of Asian cultures in the area. Many other Asian businesses like Red Ribbon Bakeshop and Jollibee, favorites in the Philippines, have also chosen Pinellas Park because of the number of Asian Americans in the area. 

Truc Hoang and Liem Nguyen own and work at Thuy Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant in St. Pete. The popular Vietnamese spot decided to do a pop-up at the Pinellas Asian Farmers market to increase their reach and create a one-stop experience for visitors to the farmers market. 

In Vietnamese, they explained to 10 Tampa Bay reporter Thuy Lan Nguyen that their restaurant is fairly popular in the area but they wanted to be able to have people shop and eat in the same spot as they do in open-air markets in Vietnam. "We sell all the foods that you'd see there, like pho, banh mi sandwiches, barbecue, egg rolls, spring rolls, fresh sugarcane juice, duck eggs," said Nguyen.

"People should visit because it's a really cool experience and when you shop here, you're directly helping these families put food on the table because they rely on their business selling these goods," explained Shawn Yang.

The market is currently on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at England Brothers Park in Pinellas Park. You can check the market's Facebook page for changes to their hours and a shift back to both Saturday and Sunday hours later on.