Why Winter Farmers’ Markets?

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By Cookie Roscoe, Market Manager

Advertising wants us to think that figuring out what food is good for us is really hard, because that’s the storyline that plays out best for conventional agriculture – and they pay for the advertising, after all. It’s this storyline that leads to mountains of sameness in our food systems, from only three kinds of apples to one kind of green beans, when in fact there’s as many different kinds of apples and green beans as there are people to eat them.

Good food is delicious, multifaceted, and joyful, and sharing it builds our bodies and our communities, but media tells us every day that we don’t have the time or patience for it, we’re too busy or important to bother with quality food, and food is difficult and best left to those with flaming knives, tattoos, and attitude.

We were told at the outset that it’s impossible to run a seasonal winter market with only Ontario produce. That’s wrong. We plowed ahead because we believed a market featuring honey, meat, cheese, squash, prepared food, and baked goods would still be fun – and, of course, we were right. More than that, though, the second year we were in operation, Ontario farmers sold out of local carrots for the first winter anyone could remember, so new and old farmers began to suddenly turn their attention to updating ways of keeping produce over the winter.

Storage ranges through greenhouse growing, walk-in coolers, cold storage sheds, buried insulated bins, and actual caves. Old methods of putting food by met new ways of adapting simple air conditioners to maintain proper temperatures and humidity levels to keep carrots tasting like they just came out of the ground, sweeter for being harvested after a frost than anything you can get imported from anywhere.

Every step of the way along our market’s journey, we’ve listened to our farmers and used their wisdom and environmental passion to guide our decisions. There are winter markets that have guidelines that say if you grow, for example, green beans in season on your farm, then when the season is over (pretty much beyond the month of September, so for the other 11 months of the year!) you may purchase any green beans at the Ontario Food Terminal and sell them instead. Our farmers asked us to veer away from that model, and now we are SO glad we did.

We have a robust, amazing array of produce every Saturday, even during the ever-shorter cold patches we get after January. The market is piled high with surprises every week, like the sorrel and kale tops I took home to go with my green eggs last week.

No matter what the weather, we’re open every Saturday morning, 8AM to 12:30PM, at Wychwood Barns, eating like royalty!

See you at the market!