Cure Cabin Fever
at Winter Farmers’ Markets
By Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
Supporting local farmers isn’t just a fair-weather pastime, it’s a year-round challenge in the northern climes. Winter farmers’ markets make it possible to offer locally raised products while, at the same time, supporting farms when cornfields are locked under snow.
“They’re great for everyone. We have products on the farm year-round – meat, eggs, syrup, hand-dyed wool yarn – and it gives us a way to sell them and get them to the public,” Jen Connolly of FiberDreams Farm in Wilton said at a recent farmers’ market.
There’s also a more subtle allure to winter farmers markets – they’re the best antidote to cabin fever. They provide an incentive to leave the house, see neighbors, who might also be hibernating, and drink in much-desired natural light and color. Oftentimes, live music is playing, and craftspeople create as they sell.
The state has more than a dozen winter markets running from November through March or April. The recently renamed Amherst Farm and Craft Market (previously the Amherst Open Air Market) at the Amherst Garden Center and Flower Shop is among them.
“It’s our second year,” John Cochran, the owner of the garden center said recently of the of the winter market. “It’s something a lot of people said they wanted. We’re still trying to build up a clientele of regulars and to dispel the false hope some shoppers have. It’s just not reasonable to expect to find cucumbers and tomatoes, but there’s so much available.”
The market was previously held on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but starting this month it will be held on Saturdays in response to requests by patrons who saw a conflict with local religious services.
On a recent afternoon, the light-drenched greenhouse rimmed with ice after an evening snowstorm was the setting for shoppers in snow boots who shuffled from table to table perusing the merchandise. Tunes from the Cow Hampshire Folk string band provided appropriate old-time string music.
James Norcott, who represented Monadnock Oil & Vinegar Co. in Peterborough, stood behind a display of white and dark balsamic vinegars, oils and salts. He said business was OK, and he always enjoys working farmers’ markets.
“I particularly like the music,” he said.
Hot samples of herbal tea were offered by Lior Sadeh of Bee Fields Farm in Wilton. She was on hand to display and sell an array of herbal teas, anise hyssop-infused honey, chamomile oil and other health products, all made from plants she grows.
Sadeh said she also sells her “wholesome foods and medicinal products” at the winter market at Cole Gardens in Concord.
“They have a lot of regulars who buy their meals there, too,” she said.
Steven St. Cyr was selling an array of upcycled home décor items he and his partner Mindy Dean made at Recycling Creations in Greenville. There were wine bottle lamps, Mason jar air fresheners and reclaimed wood clip boards among his wares.
“We use almost anything we can find – barn boards, pallets, wine bottles, stuff from old barns,” he said.
BarSoap shop of Amherst had an impressive collection of handcrafted and deliciously fragrant soaps, lotions, lip balms and sea salt soaks for sale in the greenhouse.
And for those who think you can’t find locally grown, fresh produce in the winter, Amherst Microgreens was there to prove them wrong. The flats of bright green mini-plants not only lent fresh color to the market, but served as an education of the health benefits of microgreens and how to use them in your diet – especially in the winter when fresh local greens are scarce.
Owner Jeanie Walton is the first to tell you that she harvests her microgreens between 7th and 11th day of growth, at their most nutritious because, as she said, “microgreens are up to 40 times more nutritious than mature plants.”
They’re also pretty yummy. She recommends using them in salads, sandwiches, soup, eggs and smoothies – pretty much on anything that could use a little crunch and flavor.
Fresh food is also available in the refrigerated case at Amherst Garden Center along with fresh-caught fish from Sanders Market in Portsmouth, including mussels, haddock and Atlantic cod. The fish is regularly sold at the garden center on weekends. They also have Nashua-made Jake’s Ice Cream. An entire dinner including table decorations can be purchased at the winter market.
The Davies family, Jon, Tara and newborn Ailynne in the pram, were visiting the market for the first time, having just moved to the area from Nashua. But Tara said she’s no stranger to farmers’ markets.
“I work in Lowell and go to farmers’ markets every week. We’re here to find locally produced food and unique things that are handmade,” she said. “Plus, it’s a great way to check out our new town.”