Is everyone smiling at the Stop and Shop? I don’t think so. But on Saturdays at Gossett’s Farm Market in South Salem, N.Y., no one looks grumpy. We’re greeting our neighbors around the woodstove in the corner, smelling good things, maybe hearing some music too. Farmers’ markets are just so much fun that nobody, not even cold-weather Northeasterners, wants to give them up after the fall harvest is over.
Local nursery owner Tom Gossett knows the winter market is a win-win for him because the market brings foot traffic through the on-site nursery in its quietest season. A summer market vendor, Pat Imbimbo, approached him and assembled a group of vendors who find my area to be a profitable, regular outlet. Some even travel from as far as the Lake George area, nearly 200 miles away.
Photo by Judith Hausman
It ain’t just onions and potatoes that sell over the winter. A walk through Gossett’s winter market will reveal a surprising variety of produce: kale, collard greens, beets, turnips, celery root, fennel, leeks, mushrooms, shallots, winter squash, carrots, spinach, cabbage, orchard fruit, baby romaine and baby red leaf lettuce. Honey and maple syrup, eggs and chicken, pork, beef, rabbits and duck, as well as milk and yogurt are welcome. Apples and pears, root vegetables and winter squash, some greens, bread, sweets, and prepared foods round out the offerings.
Several indoor winter farmers’ markets have cropped up in Westchester in a continuation of the popular summer markets. And New York City is working to open permanent year-round market halls, just like those in most European cities.
Food writer Pascale Le Draoulec started up the market her own suburban community, Hastings, N.Y. and now runs two others in neighboring towns as well. Le Draoulec reports it’s been surprisingly easy to put together a weekly farmers’ market in the dead of winter. She’s collected a good variety of vendors: three cheese vendors, three bread vendors, fresh fish from Long Island, biodynamically raised meat and poultry, and Hudson Valley fruit and winter vegetables, such as squash, onions, shallots, leeks and mushrooms.
“Everything a locavore would want to stay true to their mission every week of the year,” she says. “It’s further proof that people really do want to eat local all year long and not just when the sun is shining.”
Photo by Judith Hausman
Community Markets, a for-profit company that runs many summer farmers’ markets in the area, has organized winter markets in three communities, offering many of these same farm products as well as sauces, preserves, greens, cider, baked goods and honey. Rebecca Pedinotti, director of communications, comments, “The demand for year-round markets is a testament to the increasing significance that quality and conviviality are playing in our collective food choices. Every year, more and more fantastic food artisans and growers want to take part in our indoor markets. The variety of hand-crafted, locally produced food reflects the excitement and energy surrounding the regional food scene.”
Even our county government effort has been a smashing success. It began about four years ago with a one-time pilot market and expanded to monthly the next year. The market, set up in a large exhibition space, offers a wide range of cheeses and other dairy products, produce, breads and pastries, honey, maple syrup, fresh and smoked meats, even a few Hudson Valley winemakers. There are guest-chef demos and live music. In the summer the market moves to Muscoot Farm, a county-owned teaching farm near Somers, N.Y.
The extended season is a real bonus for farmers, who can cultivate loyal customers for the high season. They can even expand their growing of winter crops, too, as well as explore newer growing methods, such as hydroponics, to offer precious local (albeit greenhouse) tomatoes year-round.