We have it pretty good here in the Pacific Northwest during the winter. Sure, we've had our frosty mornings and threats of "wintry mixes" and "arctic blasts" as the tv forecasters dramatize. But by and large we are in a very temperate climate. We aren't digging ourselves out of 16 inches of snow as I recently did in a visit to family in the northeast for the holidays. Only a handful us truly need those studded tires I hear crackling their way down our rainy streets. In fact, many farmers (especially those with greenhouses and row covers for their crops) are still able to produce an astonishing amount of fresh vegetables.
As the market decided to plunge into the darkness of winter with once-a-month stock up markets, we did so with a little uncertainty. We wanted to challenge the notion that farmers markets are just for the warmer, sunnier months when we can linger with a scoop of ice cream to listen to a live band and let our kids dig red-stained fingers into a pint of strawberries. There's no denying that that's a wonderful way to spend a weekend morning chatting with our neighbors. But there's something authentic and satisfying about picking through piles of local produce when it's rainy and cold and you can't wait to get home to chop up your vegetable stash into a bubbling soup and pour yourself just one last cup of steaming coffee. We hoped that a lot of you would feel the same way and we weren't disappointed.
Last month at our first ever Winter Stock Up Market, I saw a steady stream of customers shopping for leeks, potatoes, kale and other dark leafy greens, apples, bread and cheese and tasty salumi. It was bitterly cold, and there was less chit chat than usual as people efficiently filled their baskets and headed for home. The selection was smaller, but still high-quality and seasonal. I would call the day an unqualified success, for the market and for the community. It showed that we value our local farmers, not just for the diversity of products that they can provide in August, but also for the hearty items that can still be harvested in the cold of winter. The more demand we can create by shopping at winter markets, the more incentive there will be for farmers to plant crops that thrive at this time of year, and thus the greater variety and quantity you will see in the future.
So if you are supportive of having the option of buying direct from your local growers year round, come on down to the Montavilla Farmers Market. If you need visual encouragement, check out the photos by Paul Kluvers, a friend and regular volunteer at the market. Just ignore the grey skies and focus on the good food. See you out there!