Hobe Sound Farmers Market reopens after battle with Martin County

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HOBE SOUND — A dispute between a farming family and Martin County government officials kept a farmers’ market closed for 10 months.

But last weekend the Hobe Sound Farmers Market opened its barn doors and welcomed traders and shoppers once again.

“Vendores attend a variety of different farmers’ markets, but it’s nice to have a farmers’ market on an actual farm,” said Zach Gazza, owner of the Hobe Sound open-air market, which reopens Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the 126 acres at 1425 Southeast Bridge Road. “We had our old providers back and our old customers.”

Three years ago, the Gazzas bought the acreage for their farm and later added the Farmers Market under the state’s agritourism designation, which allows farmers to generate a secondary income stream on their land.

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In early 2021, the Martin County Property Appraiser’s Office, in its annual property use assessment, concluded that new barns constructed on the property were primarily used for the farmer’s market, which would not be considered agricultural use, and therefore removed the agricultural use Use Designation for the 7 hectares used for the market.

Gazza said the barns are primarily used for growing hops.

Market manager Beth Leonard (left) speaks with vendor Emily Mauri from JAR The Zero Waste Shop during the Hobe Sound Farmers Market on Saturday 6th March 2021.

Last summer, Gazza filed a lawsuit against the offices of the Property Appraiser and Tax Collector and the Florida Department of Revenue over the 2021 decision. He is asking the court to get the county to classify its property as fully agricultural and refund overpaid taxes.

However, for 2022, the county approved all of its property for agricultural use. This allowed Gazza to reopen the market on October 1st.

“It was a great day,” he said, describing it as a “family reunion” of sorts in a Facebook post. “We had the support of the people of Hobe Sound and the rest of Martin County.”

The lawsuit, filed June 13 in Martin County, has made no progress in the court system. Both the real estate appraiser and the tax collector filed responses in court seeking the dismissal of the lawsuit.

Lamaur Stancil is Treasure Coast’s regional business reporter, reporting on companies and industries including retail, tourism and hospitality. Contact him at 321-987-7179 or [email protected] and follow him at Lamaur Stancil on Facebook and @TCPalmLStacil on twitter.

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