Let there be no doubt that Concord, New Hampshire can support at least one more local food venue. This crisp and sunny Saturday (only seven degrees this morning in Concord) created the perfect backdrop for Concord, New Hampshire’s first winter farmers market at the Cole Gardens greenhouse. The first in a series of three markets was held today, with the remaining two to be held on February 27 and March 27.
At least several hundred winter-weary people, all hungry for local food and community, bundled up and headed out to shop.
More than twenty vendors participated, offering vegetables, baked goods, hot soups, body care products, honey, maple syrup, meats, dog treats, dog chews, apples and more. Vegetables, including cabbages, buttercup squash, beets, sprouts, shallots, garlic and potatoes, were popular at this market and mostly sold out early. Live music added to the festival atmosphere of the day.
By lunchtime, although plenty of shopping and socializing continued, things were quieting down enough to chat with a few of the vendors.
I was interested to hear a farmer’s perspective on this new venue, so I spoke with “my farmer,” Larry Pletcher from The Vegetable Ranch. Larry provides my Winter CSA and participates in the Local Harvest CSA and the Fall CSA, both of which have several participating farmers.
I wondered if he’d be planning and planting differently in the coming year, in anticipation of similar events in 2011. He told me The Vegetable Ranch planted ten acres last year and will plant 14 this year in response to the Concord area’s growing year-round demand for local vegetables.
He’s also upgrading his winter crop storage system. He currently uses the stone foundation of his old home for crop storage, but has built a new storage building with a refrigeration unit that can handle large crates of crops like potatoes. This represents a big improvement over his current system and will allow him to store more vegetables and handle them more efficiently. Good news for the 2011 winter farmers market and CSA season!
Larry recently visited Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, Vermont to learn new techniques for raising winter greenhouse greens. Pete Johnson is a 37-year old organic farmer bringing innovative, sustainable and organic farming techniques to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, while providing produce for 80 stores, 60 restaurants and a 250-member CSA. In the wintertime, he’s raising microgreens in 1.5 acres of greenhouses, some of which are unheated. Pete’s Greens’ winter CSA (called “Good Eats”) even provides frozen zucchini as part of its January shares (what a wonderful idea!). Concord can look forward to Larry Pletcher and The Vegetable Ranch putting some of these new techniques to work in the our own backyard next winter.
Many shoppers commented on how wonderful it was to have such an event in Concord. One woman I chatted with in the parking lot had heard about the market from an e-mail forwarded by a friend who knew that she enjoyed farmers markets. (Indeed, most publicity for the market was by e-mail, blogs, Twitter and Facebook.)
“It’s great to see all these people,” she said. “It just shows you how many people want to buy local.” The overflowing parking lot and cars lining both sides of the road supported that theory.
Those arriving close to the lunch hour enjoyed delicious hot soup from Curtis Gould, The Soup Guy, of Dover, New Hampshire. “Come back to soup, the original comfort food,” is the slogan for his soups, made with locally sourced, all-natural ingredients. I brought home some Black Bean and Vegetable Soup, Rio de Janeiro Style, for dinner tonight.
Abigail’s Bakery offered several gluten-free options from their brown-rice, millet line of baked goods. I stocked up for my freezer because I’m still missing being able to buy Abigail’s bread at my local Coop. The Concord Cooperative Market stopped carrying Abigail’s bread several months ago, apparently because Abigail’s declined to use preservatives in their products. Abigail’s Bakery bakes the only truly all organic bread in New Hampshire. A loss for Coop customers, but it’s still worth going out of the way for Abigail’s Bakery products, which are available at their shop in Weare, New Hampshire as well as at A Market Natural Foods in Manchester, New Hampshire.
A couple of farmers-market-loving dogs waited at home on this bitter cold day, eager to find out if this market, like most, featured goodies for canines. Dried chicken livers from Mrs. Beasley’s Gourmet Dog Treats of Weare were just the consolation prize for such patience and understanding.
All needs, wants and desires were met at the first-ever Concord Winter Farmers Market.