DOAG: HOLIDAY/WINTER FARMERS’ MARKETS




December 12, 2018

HOLIDAY/WINTER FARMERS’ MARKETS

Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation

Winter farmers’ markets are a fun and festive way to shop during the cold season.

Some winter markets are held as one-day holiday markets. The annual Knox Inc. Hartford Harvest Market is typically held the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Frog Hollow farmers market, 75 Laurel Street, Hartford, CT.

Other winter farmers’ markets are open weekly, such as the CitySeed winter market at the Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven, or twice a month like the Ellington winter farmers’ market at the Indian Valley Family YMCA in Ellington.

The number of holiday/winter markets in Connecticut has grown from nine during the 2009-2010 season to 18 for the 2018-2019 season.

Several factors contribute to the increased popularity of winter farmers’ markets: people want to eat Connecticut Grown food; farmers are using season-extension techniques to grow crops later into the season; and farmers are processing their Connecticut Grown produce into value-added products like pickles and jellies, which are preserved for sale at a later date.

Many people are aware of the importance of buying locally grown food. Purchasing Connecticut Grown food supports local farmers, who are an important part of the local economy.

Dianne Trueb, executive director of Ellington Farmers’ Market Inc., said there has been a steady increase in the number of shoppers at the Ellington winter farmers’ market over the past six years because people are interested in eating more Connecticut Grown food.

“People want to know where their food comes from,” said Dianne.

Erin Carey, director of markets for CitySeed, Inc., said she has also seen a gradual increase in the number of shoppers at the CitySeed winter market since moving the market indoors in 2013.

“People are drawn to the market mostly to get fresh produce, meat, dairy, and seafood,” said Erin.

Although the popular Connecticut Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Senior (S) Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) checks are not accepted at winter farmers’ markets, some winter farmers’ markets are authorized to accept federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. Several winter farmers’ markets in Connecticut also offer SNAP doubling programs.

The CitySeed winter market at the Metropolitan Business Academy offers a SNAP doubling program.

“SNAP customers can take advantage of our SNAP incentive doubling program to get up to $10 for fruits and vegetables,” said Erin.

Opening day for the CitySeed winter market is Saturday, January 5, 2019. The market will be open every Saturday through March 30, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The Ellington winter farmers’ market at the Indian Valley Family YMCA also offers SNAP doubling.

“We match SNAP, up to $20 per week, per EBT card,” said Dianne. “We are dedicated to providing healthy food choices and healthy eating education for all.”

The Ellington winter farmers’ market is open every other Saturday; December 8, 2018 - March 16, 2019 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

A list of 2018-2019 winter farmers’ markets, including which accept SNAP and which offer SNAP doubling, is available on the DoAg website at www.ct.gov/doag.

Most shoppers at winterfarmers’ markets are aware that some summer produce, like tomatoes and peppers, are not locally available unless grown under artificial heating and lighting conditions.

Winter farmers’ markets are a great place to buy Connecticut Gown crops that have been frozen, dried, held in cold storage, or otherwise preserved.

Connecticut Grown frozen meats are readily available at many winter farmers markets.

Dried herbs and beans make great soups and stews. Pickles, jellies, sauces, and other locally grown preserved products are also available at winter farmers’ markets.

Crops like winter squash, carrots, and potatoes can be harvested in the fall and stored in low humidity and low temperature conditions for sale during the winter months.

Erin said there are lots of root vegetables for sale at the CitySeed winter market along with greens, squashes, and fruits.

Winter farmers’ markets are also good places to gather with neighbors during the cold winter months. Some winter markets like the CitySeed winter market offer musical entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and other activities.

“We also try to have a different workshop or event happening at each market to help draw customers in, as well as kid’s activities, live music, prepared foods, and value-added products,” said Erin.

The Ellington winter farmers’ market offers educational programs including a birds of prey demonstration and staying healthy with herbs.

Craft vendors are abundant at winter farmers’ markets selling locally make products like candles, soap, and pottery.

In additional to produce, meat, dairy, and seafood the CitySeed winter market offers breads, pastries, handmade soap, and dog treats.

With all of the activities and products sold at winter markets it’s easy to forget that farmers’ markets are intended to be venues for farmers to sell their products to generate income.

Dianne said the farmers at the Ellington winter farmers’ market are thrilled to have an outlet to sell direct to customers during the winter months.

The CitySeed winter market also provides farmers access to an indoor retail sales environmental. 

“It’s a great way for [farmers] to be able to sell year-round in the Greater New Haven area,” said Erin.