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Don’t Turn a Cold Shoulder on Winter Farmers Markets

Don’t Turn a Cold Shoulder on Winter Farmers Markets

Lest you think that farmers markets are only a summertime pleasure, the USDA’s National Farmer’s Market Directory has news for you.

Winter markets are thriving. There are nearly 900 of them nationwide and they account for more than 14% of the nation’s 6,132 operating farmers markets.

“Fresh, local, and healthful food isn’t just a good weather offering,” says David Shipman, Acting Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. “Clearly in many places, winter markets are hot despite the cold weather.”

Case in point: New York gets top ranking with 153 winter farmers markets across the state. Also high on the list: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

“Even in states where the traditional growing season is short, the market season is long,” Shipman says. This allows more small and local farmers to continue bringing in income for their families and their businesses, while also providing great, nutritious food to communities year round.”

Results from last year’s count of farmers markets show a 17% increase in numbers and also indicate that markets operating more than seven months out of the year have higher monthly sales than their strictly summer counterparts.

Take Brattleboro, VT’s winter farmers market. It topped $100,000 in sales last year, according to the Brattleboro ReformerTim Stevenson, who helped get the market off the ground says he and the board have had to turn away vendors because they’ve run out of space.

“It has grown every year. It’s been very successful,” said Stevenson. “People want to support the local economy and that is what local agriculture is all about,” he told the Reformer.

It makes good economic sense for producers to keep markets open as long as possible: the more markets, the more economic opportunity, not just for farm families but for emerging businesses including community kitchens, small independent processing facilities, manufacturers of special equipment for winter growing, and even food entrepreneurs.

As the Reformer notes: “The growth in winter markets is also driving farmers to change the way they manage the season. When farmers can rely on winter sales, they grow more root crops that store well. And the sales are leading to more innovation, with farmers using hoop houses to extend the growing season and innovative heating techniques such as biodiesel and wood pellets to warm the greenhouses.”

“The great thing is that this is providing an opportunity to diversify the direct marketing,” says Jean Hamilton, the direct marketing coordinator of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. “Those are direct dollars that are going back into the farms and that is getting farmers to think about what they are producing for the colder months.”

So if you don’t know of a farmers market near you, check out the National Farmers Market Directory and see what’s near you this winter weekend. You’ll be in good company.

 

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Photo credit: freefoto.com

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110 comments

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2:56AM PDT on Oct 29, 2012

Thank you :)

2:55AM PDT on Oct 29, 2012

Thank you :)

11:54PM PST on Dec 25, 2010

I'm pleasantly surprised about New York's winter famers' markets. More places should offer that.

10:27AM PST on Dec 24, 2010

gotta love the farmers market!

4:05PM PST on Dec 20, 2010

I love the Famer's Market here during the winter months. It's my first winter here but they do a great job of staying stocked with fresh seasonal produce.

10:30AM PST on Dec 19, 2010

I love farmer's markets! They make me so happy :D

11:43PM PST on Dec 18, 2010

I love winter veggies!

10:43AM PST on Dec 18, 2010

I really want to start going to farmer's markets, thanks for putting it back on my mind :)

10:32AM PST on Dec 18, 2010

Il faut pas se jeter toujours dans la gueule du loup,des producteurs loceaux honette des légumes frais et bio? il en a,
mais il faut poser beaucoups de questions avant d'acheter et
payer des prix exorbitant ,des pesticides et des engrais sont
toujours éxistant,sans oublier la pollution atmosphérique./

3:39PM PST on Dec 17, 2010

just the picture makes me hungry! Thanks for telling everyone about winter veggies! Eat them all year!

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