Think it’s impossible to obtain locally sourced, farm-to-table foods when the fields are barren, snow is in the forecast, and temperatures are plunging? Think again! Thanks to local winter farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture, you can enjoy nature’s bounty year-round.
Our global economy means that you can find most any food you want at your local grocery store, even in the dead of winter – clementines from Spain, Granny Smith apples from New Zealand, bell peppers from Mexico, to name a few – but have you ever considered what you are sacrificing for that convenience? Although the grocery store ads may tout how fresh their produce is, most food travels thousands of miles before it reaches your family’s table. And that process takes time and consumes fossil fuels, contributing to environmental pollution and reducing the freshness and flavor of the food you’re eating.
Purchasing food locally year-round is a greener and healthier approach to food sourcing and has the added benefits of contributing to the local economy and helping to preserve green space. And while the bulk of the growing season is over by the time the snow flies, an abundance of locally grown fruits and vegetables is still available from indoor farmers’ markets during the winter months, in addition to eggs, dairy products, preserves, baked goods, meats, cider, and more.
The following is a list of farmers’ markets in and around the Capital Region that operate during the winter. Several of these markets also participate in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition programs.
Shopping at your neighborhood farmers’ market is a healthy, eco-friendly way to support local agriculture, but if you want to go one step further, consider signing up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program this winter.
A CSA is essentially a partnership between a farmer and a local consumer. Prior to the growing season, the consumer purchases a “share” in the farm in exchange for a portion of the harvest.
As a CSA member, you and your family will receive a basket or box of low-cost, high-quality, seasonal food from the farmer on a regular basis, often weekly, throughout the farming season (and sometimes beyond). Usually, the food may be picked up either at the farm or at a pre-arranged drop-off location in your neighborhood. You will have the opportunity to sample new and different foods that you might not otherwise have tried, and you will also be taking a positive step to reduce the negative impact of food production on the environment. Beyond those advantages, CSAs offer a “food with a face” experience that can be a truly valuable food production lesson for the whole family, especially if you take the time to visit the farm in person.
The CSA arrangement also benefits the farmers, who receive up-front financial support to run the farm, as well as a guaranteed client base for the food they produce. This collaborative approach may also make it easier for the farmer to experiment with heirloom varieties of foods or organic methods, and to diversify, offering an array of goods that may include fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, preserves, baked goods, flowers, and meat.
Before committing to becoming a CSA member, you should ask yourself:
You may also want to ask the farmer a few questions:
Many CSA programs are available in the Capital Region and beyond, including the farms listed below. Be sure to visit the farm websites for the most up-to-date information on pricing, food offerings, and season length, and sign up early to lock in your share. CDPHP’s recent list of all kinds of locally sourced foods, including dairy products and meat includes a handy map so that you can find the local foods that are most convenient to you. To find the products nearest you, check out A Locavore’s Delight or see the links below.