We have 8 winter markets left before we kick off our summer market in May. While it’s easy to believe that there isn’t much available during the winter months at the farmers’ market, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Winter markets offer an entirely different approach to local eating, one that encourages creativity for trying new and interesting products. It’s possible to eat local year-round once you consider all the fall produce that is meant for storage, breads and pastas, eggs, and greens that are grown under cover thanks to the season extension techniques our savvy farmers use.
It’s not difficult to create nutritional and healthy meals in the winter out of local food. And by the time you’re ready for a change, April and May will be here and it will be time for early Spring produce again.
Here are some reasons why you should plan on shopping the market this winter.
Good for Shoppers
The most obvious benefit to customers is that a winter market allows you to continue having access to local, healthy foods.
Winter can mean that the veggies and fruit we eat are packaged canned or frozen and shipped in from other places so that we can continue eating things that aren’t in season. At a local market, everything that you buy is grown locally, so you may discover new foods, like beets or hearty greens, that you’ve never had, but learn that you love.
Remember that local food tends to be healthier and full of nutrients. That doesn’t change in the winter even when we’re talking about root crops like potatoes, beets, and radishes that can be preserved or stored or value added products from our farmers, like tomato sauces, jams, and pickled veggies. Any type of processing, preparation or storage of foods may diminish the nutritional value, but food that starts locally and grown in sustainably managed soils starts off with higher nutrient values. So, when you’re trying to get the most nutritional bang for your buck, shop for local produce and meat, and ask your farmer about their growing and production processes.
(Side note, winter markets are a great time to get to know your farmers and local vendors since they’re typically not as busy as summer markets.)
Good for Farmers
Winter markets allow farmers to expand the selling year and decrease the length of winter months when sales may be slower. It also gives farmers the opportunity to enhance their relationships with local community members. A winter market is great space to learn about your farmer’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership, that will be ramping up in the spring.
Support farmers and the local food system year-round
This is pretty straightforward, but in case you didn’t know, farmers don’t take the winter off. This is a key time to support them by purchasing local produce, meats and eggs as they begin to plan and prepare for next spring. Budgeting, researching, crop planning, equipment repairs, and animal care are all tasks happening every day on our local farms. Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about stopping by a grocery store instead of the market.
In addition, most of the bakers and prepared food makers from the summer market continue to attend the winter markets. Their businesses don’t stop in the winter either.
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