Editorial Contribution by Division of Agricultural Markets Staff Julia Grimaldi and Bonita Oehlke
I don’t know about you, but the fact that there are now so many opportunities to savor the bounty of MassGrown products during the winter months is, well, just awesome! There are 40 winter farmers’ markets to choose from across the state that offer an extensive selection of seasonally unique produce and products. Farms are selling storage crops such as crisp apples, several varieties of winter squash, onions, purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, candy cane beets, yellow carrots, and watermelon radishes, as well as a variety of greens such as salad greens, spinach, kale and collard greens grown in a ‘hoop house’ (a structure used as a greenhouse to extend the growing season).
And that’s not all. More and more local businesses are adding to the variety including fresh seafood and shellfish, farm wineries, farmstead cheese makers, pastured raised meat, poultry and egg producers, bakers, honey and maple products, hand crafted pastas, sauces, prepared foods, dry goods, and even fibers.
Dave from Inman Square shops at the Cambridge Winter Farmers’ Market because farmers’ market carrots and radishes “taste better”. One of the new vendors at the farmers' market is Green River Ambrosia from Western Massachusetts who hand crafts unusual mead products made with local honey, ginger, and fruit from Valley farms.
Like the bees that bring us honey, our winter farmers’ markets are cross-pollinators themselves.
Many not only sell their own products, but also sell products from neighboring farms. Misty Brook Farm in Barre sells organic meats and vegetables, grains and Robinson’s Farm cheese located in Hardwick. Red Fire Farm in Montague & Granby sells all of their own produce as well as maple syrup from Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield and yogurt from Side Hill Farm in Ashfield. Silverbrook Farm in Dartmouth, like many of the growers selling at winter farmers’ market, is growing a nutritious assortment of greens grown and micro-greens.
“We really enjoy this market every weekend, the Cambridge community is very supportive of our work and I like seeing repeat customers,” said owner/grower Andy Pollock.
A growing number of markets also accept EBT-SNAP coupons (formally called food stamps) to help families stretch their food dollars and provide nutritious foods to them all year long. The Cambridge Community Center (5 Callender Street) which hosts the winter market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. through April also has a Food Scrap program where you can drop of compostable materials for repurposing.
Oh, and did I mention venues for celebration? The Wayland Winter Farmers’ Market which runs on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through March , hosts over 40 vendors in an airy, open greenhouse at Russell’s Garden Center, surrounded by luxuriantly growing plants. The market recently hosted the 3rd Annual Massachusetts Farm Wineries Day which featured nine Bay State wineries made from honey, grapes and other local fruits and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Wine and Cheese Trail brochure. Peg Mallet, the enthusiastic and effervescent market manager, welcomes visitors and encourages more to join the ranks of dedicated customers!