Winter Farmers' Market Offers Fresh, Local Food All Year
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Peacework Organic Farm offers a summer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Henderson also sits on the board of the New York Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). She says that while winter markets may be growing in popularity, they are also a lot of work for farmers. It requires a substantial investment, Henderson says, to do a good job of growing and preserving foods during warmer months for winter sales.
“(When) storing root crops on a large scale, you need to have proper storage with good ventilation and a good temperature,” Henderson says. Otherwise a farmer risks losing a lot of time and money on spoiled crops. “Personally, I prefer to work harder in the warm months and use the winter months to relax,” she says.
For many farmers and artisans, winter markets provide a great way to stay connected with their summer customers. They also help fill up what can be long and dreary days of winter.
Vermont, a state known for its long winters, has seen a recent influx of winter farmers’ markets. Currently, 18 markets throughout the state are open in the winter months. Sellers at the newly formed Burlington winter farmers’ market were pleasantly surprised with the popularity of the new venue. The city’s summer market includes everything from potted plants to fresh produce, to artwork and handbags, and it has 162 vendors participating weekly. Hundreds of people come to browse and buy in the farmers’ market, which is held in a city park. The popularity of Burlington’s summer market, according to Market Manager Chris Wagner, was part of the impetus to start a winter market. The cold-weather market, which began in 2008, runs from November through April and is held one Saturday each month for four hours. The indoor market is located in downtown Burlington, and, on a Saturday in February, it is packed with smiling faces in winter garb. Customers troll the aisles for the best winter vegetables, frozen meats, fresh eggs and potted plants. Local musicians playing acoustic music provide a festive vibe to the marketplace.
Wagner says the winter and summer markets must maintain a balance of at least 55 percent agricultural products, which helps maintain the integrity of the markets. In addition to fresh or frozen food products, vendors of both markets sell ready-made foods. Leaving the cold, snowy street and entering the February market, visitors are embraced by the scent of hot spices and warm sugar. Vendors at various booths prepare a diverse selection of hot and cold foods. Raw and vegan foods, along with Himalayan, Mexican and maple baked goods are just a sampling of the ready-to-eat foods that grace tables at the winter market. There are also handmade craft and artisan items for sale including dried flower arrangements, honey, purses, candles, aprons and more.