Market Forecasts: Winter is no problem for local farmers

Just because there is frost on the ground does not mean it's the end of the growing season for farmers. People need to eat year-round, too, so it just made sense to extend the farmers market through the year. About 62 summer markets are now complimented with about 15 winter markets.

It all started under Sara Zoe Patterson's guidance with "Holiday Markets" held in November and December to help people buy local for their holiday feasts. Patterson, coordinator of Seacoast Eat Local, found that farmers really benefited from the extra exposure to clientele who were clamoring for local food. Michael Pollen and a host of other food writers have redefined what a good meal is. There is a new, more aware audience who understands the need for good, sound farming practices that don't deplete the land or have an energy footprint larger than Godzilla.

On a recent day in November I visited the Wentworth Greenhouse in Rollinsford. The huge space, naturally warmed by the sun, would have been fallow ground in winter months, but now it is the perfect space for a gathering of kindred souls, bent on either producing food with a small farm model or searching out the best quality food they can find to feed their families and conscience. It was a far cry from a modern supermarket. Here, you meet your maker, your producer, your hand-picker. You get the comfort of knowing where your food came from. If your health depends upon what you put inside, this is indeed an important acquaintance.

To aid farmers in marketing their goods to people without cash, the market organizers allow EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfers)and a new program where debit cards are charged in exchange for wooden coins accepted by merchants.

The array of products, produce and proteins was quite impressive. Pasture-raised chickens, ducks, beef, venison and elk were available, in most cases, frozen. Even baked goods from Forty Five Market Street Bakery and Café used local ingredients. I also found locally grown ginger root, baby cilantro and a nice raw cow's milk cheese from Brookford Farm. Brookford also offered eggs, raw milk, beef and their own milled grains in addition to a supply of winter vegetables. Owners Luke and Catarina Mahoney were recently the benefactors of Stonyfield Yogurt CEO Gary Hirshberg's largesse when he agreed to finance their purchase of the Gold Star Sod Farm in Canterbury. Luke Mahoney says it will take a while before they can claim their products are organic, but that will be the ultimate goal.

Brookford Farm's move to Canterbury will be a boon for market organizer Joan O'Connor, who is starting a new winter market in Tilton. She also, was helped by business largesse. The AutoServe dealership agreed to let her use a 12,000-square-foot building that was under-utilized for a winter market starting this month. The location, just off I-93 exit 20, is the former site of the Hillside Agway.

Currently O'Connor has 32 vendors signed up with a broad array of goods – everything from mushrooms from Earl Tuscon to raw milk from Huck's Dairy to cheeses aged in a cave from Hickory Nut Farm, and Surowiec Farm has two greenhouses just for winter greens. Hydroponic tomatoes will be provided by Hobbit HIll Farm. Joan says that a limiting factor is whether the producer can afford product liability insurance. In some cases it can cost upwards of $900 a year, making it difficult for a small producer to step up to the plate.

O'Connor was encouraged by the success of the Concord winter market at Cole Gardens. As the former manager she attested there were more than 1,100 market shoppers on the Saturdays the market ran. "The farmers were thrilled," she says. They actually sold more at the winter market than the more traditional summer market and made contacts with local chefs."

This year the winter market at Cole Gardens is organized by Charlie Cole. The schedule for these and other winter markets for the season include:

Winter Farmers Market at Cole Gardens: Cole Gardens, 430 Loudon Rd., Concord. Saturdays, Jan. 7 to Mar. 31, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Danbury Winter Farmers Market: Blazing Star Grange, 15 North Rd, first Sat. of the month, November through April, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Derry Farmers Market: Veterans Hall Gymnasium, 31 West Broadway, November through March, 1st & 3rd Sunday., 11 a.m. to 3p.m.;

Enfield Winter Farmers Market: Enfield Community Building, Rte. 4, second Sat. of the month, November through Apr., 10 1 p.m.

Epping Farmers Market: 16 Main St., first Fri. each month, November through April, 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.

Lebanon Winter Farmers' Market: Lebanon United Methodist Church, 18 School St., third Sat. of the month, November through Apr., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EBT accepted.

Milford Indoor Farmers Market: Milford Town Hall Auditorium, 3rd. floor, 1 Union Sq., Saturdays, Jan. 7, 21; Feb.18; Mar. 3, 17; April 21; May 5, 19; 9 noon

Newmarket Farmers Market: Carpenter's Greenhouse, 220 S. Main St. first and third Saturday of the month, November through April, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Mountain Grainery Winter Farmers Market: 755, Rte. 16, Ossipee, first and third Sat., December through March, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Raymond Winter Farmers Market: Lamprey River School, 33 Old Manchester Rd., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Jan. 21, Feb. 18, Mar. 17

Salem Farmers Market: Lake St. Garden Center, first and third Sun., November through March (except Jan. 8, 15), noon to 4 p.m.

Seacoast Eat Local Winter Farmers' Markets: Alternates between Wentworth Greenhouses, Rollinsford and Exeter High School, Exeter, 2nd & 4th Saturday of January to April, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tilton Winter Farmers Market: Exit 20 off I-93, then 1/2 mile west toward Tilton. Saturdays through April, 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

Walpole Farmers Markets: Walpole Town Hall, third Saturday., November to April, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We Are One Farmers Market: Holy Cross Episcopal Church, 118 Center Rd., Weare, Fridays until March 30, 3 p.m to 6:30 p.m.

Categories: Features