By Holly Catron, Boone County Master Gardener
Have you experienced an Indiana winter farmers’ market? Here is an opportunity to address food insecurity and improve nutrition in our communities.
We moved to Fishers in February, two years ago. I was excited to visit my first winter market. Would there be vegetables? What else? Winter markets can improve the local food economy and elevate the nutritional health of a community. They represent a partnership between farmers, food artisans, and customers.
The market was held in the park community building. Vendors of all sorts were spaced around the room. The smell was delightful, with Mathoo’s Egg Rolls front and center. There were tables of baked goods, eggs, a meat vendor, wine, jams and honey, cider, and much-to-my-delight, vegetables! I strolled through with a big smile on my face, filling my shopping bag with goodies, and chatting with the vendors. I munched on my warm eggrolls on the way out.
Some vegetables are just coming into season as the summer markets wrap up. This creates a problem for the local farmers and an opportunity for a market. Further, those late-autumn veggies like squash, beets, and carrots can be stored, as can honey, cider, and canned or frozen foods. Frozen meat is always in season, as are eggs, although production may fall off as the light diminishes. And don’t forget dried options and fresh microgreens.
Many Indiana vegetable producers have invested in hydroponic systems and grow in warm buildings, while others have hoop houses or greenhouses, sometimes heated. These extend the growing season and allow a steady stream of greens, and really any kind of vegetable throughout the winter months.
According to the 2019 National Farmers Market Managers Survey, there were 8,140 markets operating in the U.S. in 2019. Of those, 21 percent operate year-round. Of the 4,076 markets that accept Federal Nutrition Programs, 78.7 accepted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
So, what does that mean? If the market operates under the same entity in the winter as the summer, they could already be eligible to offer SNAP at the market. If not, they may be able to apply. Any of the food items mentioned above, with the exception of the eggrolls, can be purchased using SNAP benefits.
The winter market provides another opportunity for a match program, kids’ activities or a club, nutrition education, and food demonstrations. Space may be limited, but many of the same initiatives offered in the summer can be applied to winter markets.
Enjoy a stroll through a winter market today!
Here are some links you may enjoy.
National Farmers Market Managers Survey: https://usda.library.cornell.edu/concern/publications/pz50hd694
A list of the Indiana farmers’ markets (some specify year-round): https://www.indianagrown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/List-of-IN-Farmers-Markets-8.5.2020-1.pdf
Bloomington Winter Market: https://bloomingtonwinterfarmersmarket.com/
Fishers Fall Farmers’ Market: https://www.playfishers.com/FARMERSMARKET
Broad Ripple: https://www.broadrippleindy.org/farmers-market/