Seasons are changing, and temperatures are cooling, but year-round farmers markets are still going strong.
“Ten years ago farmers markets were very seasonal and traditionally closed at the end of the October, not to open again until April 1,” said Molly Harris, project manager for the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability. “Now, most markets stay open year-round in some form, and there are many creative solutions to keeping sales open to customers.”
One solution is online farmers markets, which offer an alternative to finding indoor space. Participating farmers can sell their goods to consumers through organizations like the Goochland County-based Center for Rural Culture. The nonprofit organization created an online market where customers can browse a wide variety of products, make selections and check out online. They then choose a convenient location to pick up their purchases.
Whether online or indoors, a range of delicious, seasonal products are available in the winter. Winter squash, hearty greens, mushrooms, apples and pears are some of the many crops seen at farmers markets, along with dairy products, meats, eggs and value-added products like jams.
And though winter commodities shine, some summer favorites can be found during the cold months too. Cilantro, salad mixes, sprouts and green tomatoes are sold by farms that have the means to create the climate-controlled environments.
“So many farms have been growing in greenhouses to extend their summer season,” Harris said. “We now have year-round lettuces, and baby carrots and radishes coming in the early months of spring.”
Staying open year-round gives farmers markets and producers an advantage, especially during the holidays. With the focus on buying local and movements like Small Business Saturday in November, sellers offer products that make great gifts, including cookies and baked goods.
“Selling over the holidays is huge, and some will have special holiday markets,” Harris said. “There’s also a push to source your Thanksgiving and holiday meals locally.”