RIP Native Sun

Image courtesy of Native Sun.

It is with great sadness that I learned this week that Native Sun Natural Market is shuttering all three Jacksonville locations after 23 years of service. The longtime business announced that it’s no longer able to compete against the influx of “green” big box grocery chains currently infiltrating our fair city. This news is especially sad in that it came in the midst of National Farmers Market Week, an annual celebration of local farmers, artisans, and small businesses across the country.

Over the last few years, the Northeast Florida market has been flooded by national wellness-focused food chains and unfortunately, it’s the small, independent businesses that suffer the most from overcompetition in the saturated market. The news is especially bad for customers looking for quality local food, as the big chains don’t have the same dedication to supporting local purveyors, or to quality assurance, as the mom and pop shops they’re putting out of business.

In fact, many large chains are misleading about the nature of their products. They frequently tout headlines like “green market” or “farmers market” when they are anything but. Flashy marketing tells customers that they’re getting quality, environmentally friendly items from local farmers, when in reality, like any big grocery, the chains rely on industrialized processes and international growers to keep prices down - this is commonly known as “greenwashing”. Note: real farmers markets have real live farmers, not pictures of models in “farm” clothes smiling over mounds of organic avocados not so freshly arrived from Chile.

Shopping small

Eat Local Florida guide, courtesy of Fresh Access Bucks.

Why is it important to shop small? Small grocers, family owned businesses, and farmers markets support local economies and improve access to fresh, healthy, and nutrient-dense foods. They provide education and transparency about the products they sell and help build stronger communities. They serve as incubators for artisans, bakers, farmers, and other small businesses, and demonstrate the true cost and therefore the true value of food production. They improve our food security and our food sovereignty. When we shop small, our dollars have a ripple effect on our local economy, and over 45 percent is redistributed locally as compared to less than 14 percent of purchases from chain grocers.

While we mourn the loss of Native Sun, there are other places shoppers can turn to when looking to show local some love. These small businesses are part of the fabric that makes Jacksonville unique, and it’s important that we support them with our dollars. Not sure who is truly local? Check out Slow Food First Coast’s Find a Snail list of local restaurants, shops, farms, breweries, bakers, and more that are invested in good, clean, and fair food, or pick up the latest copy of Edible Northeast Florida. Here are just a few of Jacksonville’s local independent groceries, markets and vendors to help fill the big gap left behind by Native Sun.

Places to shop local

Grassroots Natural Market, one of Jacksonville’s most successful natural groceries.

Small Grocery Stores:

Farmers Markets:


Meats and Seafood


Article by Katie Delaney. Katie is a food access professional and advocate for Florida farmers based in Jacksonville. She currently manages the Fresh Access Bucks program, which incentivizes SNAP recipients to double their benefits toward Florida-grown produce at farmers markets, and is a board member for Slow Food First Coast.