Steve Phelps of Indigenous Champions the Natives

Good Bite

BY ANDREW FABIAN, ANDREW.FABIAN@SRQME.COM SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY MAY 12, 2020

Steve Phelps thinks a lot about the world around him—his neighbors and friends, the birds and the trees, the whole social and ecological sphere that comprises life outside his front door. The tables in his aptly named restaurant, Indigenous, are made from locally sourced cypress, the greens on his menu come from local farms, the fish from local fishermen. And even with his restaurant’s dining area empty, he continues to find ways to stay connected to his world and the living things, sentient and otherwise, that fill it with life. 

As pandemic closures spread to the food industry and farmer’s markets, Phelps thought about some of the vendors he has built a relationship with through his restaurant. “Homestead Hydroponic Farms has been on my menu for years,” he says. Another local vendor, Sharon Juraszek of Fermentlicious, makes the sauerkraut found on some of his weekly specials. For these vendors, their direct-to-public sales from the Sarasota Farmer’s Market represented a sizable slice of their revenue pie, so the market’s closure caused a drastic loss of income already reduced from restaurant closures. “I think the downtown farmer’s market missed an opportunity to capitalize on the paranoia of going to the grocery store,” says Phelps, “and when it closed, these vendors had nowhere else to go.” So, Phelps stepped in.

He offered up his restaurant, with its convenient outdoor patio and refrigeration, as a new outpost for the sale of local produce and food products. “We only do dinner [at Indigenous],” he says, “so the daytime market doesn’t interfere with my dinner operations at all.” The Saturday markets out of Indigenous began in March. Almost immediately, Homestead increased their sales by 30%. The response was so strong that Grove Ladder Farms asked if they could join the party with their eggs. And just like that, a mini-market established itself in Towles Court. “Out of our friendship and the necessity to maintain our business relationship we were able to pull this off,” he says, “and the response has been great.” Great enough that Phelps and his vendors added Wednesday to the market’s schedule.

In honoring the no-contact protocols many businesses have adopted, Phelps and his vendors require that customers preorder online for Wednesday and Saturday morning pickup, which runs from 9 am to 11 am. Orders for Wednesday pickup should be placed between 10 am Monday and 3 pm Tuesday. For Saturday pickup, orders should be placed between 10 am Thursday and 3 pm Friday. Orders can be placed through the Homestead Hydroponics website, where detailed instructions for pickup and an assortment of products from Fermentlicious and Blackbeard’s Ranch can also be found.

Pictured: The Homestead at Indigenous. Photo courtesy of Homestead Hydroponic Farm

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