Winter Farmers' Market Offers Fresh, Local Food All Year

Variety of offerings make a cold-weather farmers' market the place to be.

| September/October 2009

While the weather outside might be frightful, it only makes a winter farmers’ market all the more delightful. Farmers’ markets, traditionally held in more temperate months, are known for their fresh, delicious produce, baked goods and crafts. The festivity and camaraderie between farmers, crafters, artisans and their customers actually may draw more people to a farmers’ market than the fresh food does. But cold months tend to put the kibosh on such markets in areas where the thermometer dips below freezing.

There is hope though. Winter farmers’ markets are sprouting up all around the country. While summer markets are packed with fresh tomatoes, squash, melons and more, many people might wonder what offerings are brought to a winter market. Most people don’t realize that a winter market can feature more than root vegetables and an odd bunch of winter greens. These markets are stocked with fresh baked goods, canned jams and pickled vegetables, handmade craft and artisan items, fresh cheeses, organic meats, and hot, ready-made foods.

John Hendrickson works as the senior outreach specialist in the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hendrickson, who is an organic farmer in addition to his work at the university, believes that the increase in winter farmers’ markets is twofold.

“One is on the customer side,” says Hendrickson about the increasing popularity of winter markets. “A lot of people are committed to buying locally, eating locally and supporting farmers. They don’t want the market to end ... the other side is the producers who have additional product to sell.”

In winter, Hendrickson says, farmers often suffer from lowered incomes. Winter markets help with positive cash flow during a time of year that is financially challenging.

“Winter markets, I would guess, won’t bring in as many sales as the growing season,” Hendrickson says. “But it will help to bridge that gap and bring in some cash flow.” In Madison, Hendrickson says the farmers’ market has been a year-round event for the past seven years. The market draws approximately 50 vendors and many more shoppers.

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