The new season of winter farmers’ markets is set to begin, and Deborah Mcdermott reports on York’s addition to this vibrant scene. From Seacoastonline.com:
Earth Matters: Farmers market grows in York — Winter season won’t end local events
There are a lot of things to love about living on the Seacoast. One of them, at least for me, is the fact that so many people understand the importance of eating locally-grown food. Not only does it taste better, it is also better for you, and it isn’t trucked long distances from some foreign clime, adding to aggregate carbon emissions.
During the summer, it’s easy to find sources of fresh, local foods. During the winter, until recent years, not so much.
That changed four years ago, when Seacoast Eat Local began sponsoring winter farmers markets. Initially just a smattering of markets before the holidays, it has grown into a twice-monthly extravaganza of dozens of vendors who gather at one of their two locations, Exeter High School and Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford.
The Rye Energy Committee holds markets at the junior high once a month, as well.
Those folks who live across the river in southern York County, Maine, though, haven’t had a winter market in their neck of the woods — until now. The very popular Gateway Farmers Market in York is opening its first winter market this month.
The summer market, formed by the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce on its grounds on Route 1, has grown in size and popularity since it started eight years ago. And people didn’t want it all to end with the first stirrings of fall, said Stephanie Oeser of the chamber.
“A lot of customers and vendors were going to the Seacoast Eat Local market at Wentworth, and people kept coming up to us and saying they wished there was something like that in York,” Oeser said.
She said the chamber has been looking for the last 18 months for a location big enough and with enough parking available in the winter. They finally found it at Foster’s Clambake on Axholme Road in York.
Oeser said they’re planning on between 20 and 30 vendors each time. Interestingly, she said, most of the farmers who have booths at the summer market are not set for winter production; the vegetable vendors will likely come from a little further afield. She also said she tried to choose dates that wouldn’t conflict with Seacoast Eat Local’s markets.
According to Sara Zoe Patterson of Seacoast Eat Local, it’s not surprising that many area farmers haven’t made the investment into winter production. She said she found that was the case initially with their farmers.
“It takes a leap to go into winter production. There’s a lot that small farmers have to take into consideration,” she said. But this winter, more than 60 farms will be participating in their markets, including a number of new farms that have expanded into winter produce. And there’s a waiting list of 10 farms.
“It offers an opportunity for farmers who need a reliable source of income in the winter,” Patterson said.
That’s why she couldn’t be happier to hear that York is opening a market, because it offers a wider opportunity for small local farmers and for the consuming public.
“This is exactly what we could have hoped for,” Patterson said. Between Newburyport, Mass., and Concord, and all points in between, “there’s really not a single weekend between November and the end of April that there’s not a farmers market.”
Oeser said there’s real excitement from vendors and customers alike about the winter market. The cost of heat and electricity is being underwritten by Savings Bank of Maine.
And the first one is this coming Saturday, Nov. 20. So to all those Maine readers of this column: Mark your calendar.