Soon, very soon, 32 farmers markets will start popping up along the Seacoast landscape. First to the familiar tents, an abundance of seedlings along with salad greens, picked fresh that morning.
People will return to mill about, chat with farmers and friends and in many, cases listen to music, or watch demonstrations. As weeks pass new products will fill the stalls and crowds will grow.
Of course all those waiting for the first spring/summer markets are missing out. Till the garden-greens pop up a dozen winter markets offer greenhouse versions along with lots of produce carried over the old fashion way – root cellars.
“The winter market is a pretty diverse experience,” says Josh Jennings, director of Seacoast Eat Local winter markets at Exeter and Rollinsford, market manager for Exeter’s summer market and owner of Meadows Mirth, a certified organic farm in Stratham. “All the products are grown or produced (if prepared food) by the people there. It’s all local.”
OK, so the coffee beans are imported, but they’re roasted local, he adds.
It’s hard to imagine the variety a winter market offers without experiencing it; “where to start,” says Jennings.
There’s carrots, beets, turnips, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, pumpkin, winter squash, rutabaga, “in the absolute dead of winter.”
“It comes back to good old-fashioned root cellaring and there’s also modern technology, like high tunnels, (a greenhouse.)”
“We also have vendors that grow their own grain, like wheat. Some bring it as wheat berries. Some have purchased grain and flour mills and bring in flours. We have a vendor that produces sunflower and grapeseed oil. And we haven’t even gotten to the meats yet,” he says.
There’s maple syrup, eggs, raw milk and creams, and vendors that produce cheese. “I tell people just come, and walk in. … They’re shocked; they have no words.”
The Exeter winter event started with 12 vendors, and about 600 customers per market. “We now have 50 vendors with a waiting list, and we’re getting about 2,000 to 2,500 customer through the door.”
Each feeds the other. With the success of markets — whatever the season — farmers are encouraged to diversify and create new products, which brings in new people, inspiring more goods, and so it goes. Read more…
Mark your calendars for when our Winter Farmers’ Market returns to Exeter on Saturday, April 13th!