While I was in the barn on Friday setting up to photograph this week’s share, in strolled Annie Gascoyne, co-owner of Help Yourself!, an organic restaurant located in Key West. Annie made the three-and-a-half hour drive up with her boyfriend to pick up boxes of veggies for her restaurant, and for the farmer’s market that she and her business partner run on Sundays from 9 am to 1 pm.
The market is “getting quite a little following,” Annie told me as she took a minute from packing produce into the car. In addition to herbs, fruits and vegetables from Redland Organics, “there’s a fellow who cuts fresh coconuts, and live music from a local band that comes without fail.” Co-owner and chef Charlie Wilson gives cooking demos. The market is in its second season, paralleling the CSA season, and it’s starting to take off. A loyal group of locals comes by every week to shop, and this season Annie has noticed an increasing number of tourists dropping by.
Annie explained that she started the market because not everybody may want to, or afford to, eat at her restaurant every day. “There was such a lack,” she said. “I wanted to bring that [market] experience to support local farmers. It’s so nice knowing what you’re supporting.” And her customers are delighted for the opportunity to get fresh, healthy local food. “All say thank you so much for being here,” Annie said.
Help Yourself! is a rare bird as far as restaurants go in this area. Annie and Charlie source local food as much as possible, and all ingredients are natural and organic. “We’re all about food as it should be,” Annie explained. She had visited restaurants with similar concepts in London and New York, and Charlie had been a chef at a top-notch vegan restaurant in New York — so why not Key West? “Knowing that this exists in other places, and feeling a real lack, combined with a desire to support local business doing great things” inspired the two women to launch their restaurant.
Today and tomorrow Help Yourself! is participating in the Gardenfest, a weekend festival to benefit the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, located on Stock Island. The festival will feature a plant sale, and various speakers on gardening, plus a green market, various artisan crafts and live music.
Help Yourself! organic restaurant
829 Fleming Street
Key West, Fl 33040