"Eating local" and "eating in season" are popular phrases these days, aren't they? However, do you find yourself eating locally more in the summer than in the winter? If so, you're not alone. Many Farmer's Markets around the area are only open during the spring and summer months, when the crowds and crops are at their peak. The demand for local food decreases as cold weather sets in and the non-flashy crops of winter make their debuts. Jessica Prentice, author of Full Moon Feast, says it best:
"At the height of summer, when there are bountiful fresh juicy tomatoes, sweet corn, crisp green beans, and peaches that are bursting with flavor, we may flock to the farmer's markets and celebrate the joys of the harvest. But our enthusiasm doesn't last through the Hunger Moon... During the Hunger Moon we return to the supermarkets to buy produce imported from tropical countries where the sun still shines. Our interest in seasonality is seasonal."
It's no wonder that we find ourselves eating more locally and in season during the summer...it's just, well...easier! Here in the Montavilla neighborhood, we have the privilege of having a farmer's market which hosts a Winter Stock-Up day about once a month during the market's "off season". To gain more insight about the issue of eating locally in the winter I talked with Gretchan Jackson, the Market Manager for the Montavilla Farmer's Market, and here's what she had to say:
1. Tell us a little about yourself! What is your position with the Montavilla Farmers Market, how long have you been involved with it, and what is your favorite part about your job?
My name is Gretchan Jackson and I am the Market Manager at the Montavilla Farmers Market. I live in the neighborhood and have been an avid locavore since discovering the bounty of local farmers markets in college. Montavilla Farmers Market is in its 5th year and I have been on board as a market founder and manager since its inception in 2007. My favorite part of the job is working to connect local farmers and producers with a community of supporters here in Montavilla.
2. It seems like there is a trend to “eat locally” only in the summer months when it is most convenient. Why is it important to support local vendors and farmers year round versus just during the summer months?
With Portland's mild winters, there's no reason to stop eating locally and in season after October. The real secret is that winter crops are at their sweetest once it gets cold outside. Shopping at year round farmers markets encourages local farmers to extend their season to provide us with the best and least traveled food available. Supporting the local farm and producer economy in the leaner months, ensures that growers and small businesses can remain financially viable, allowing them to return and thrive as the crowds and crops return in summer.
3. What are the biggest setbacks for farmers and vendors participating in the Winter Stock-Up Market?
When the weather shifts and skies are grey, cold and wet, folks forget that there's warmth to be had a local market, conversing with neighbors and vendors about the delicious abundance found here in the Pacific Northwest. No matter the weather, it is important to show up to support the farmers and vendors who have traveled to your locale to meet you.
4. Are you finding that the Winter Stock-Up Market is well-received/attended and do you expect that more markets around Portland will become year-round or have winter stock-up days?
We have been very pleased with the offerings found at our Winter Stock-Up Markets in December and January and also happily surprised with the customer turn out. A Winter Market offers a unique chance to experience a farmers market with smaller crowds. Often times the farmer or producer themselves will be vending, so you can speak directly with them about their farming practices and varieties they offer, without a rush. Prices are often lower with storage crops too, and bulk buying is encouraged. Certainly, as the demand for winter farmers markets increases, other farmers markets will follow suit by offering cold weather dates. We've already seen that phenomenon with the November Harvest Markets prior to Thanksgiving that many markets now feature.
5. What can the Portland community do to show their appreciation and support of year round markets and the Winter Stock-Up Market, and how can they get involved?
Come visit the Montavilla Farmers Market at the February 13th Winter Stock-Up Market from 11am - 1pm, at the 7600 Block of SE Stark Street here in Portland. You will find 25+ varieties of local apples and pears, beef, pork, soft and aged goat cheese, dry-cured sausage, likely some storable crops like carrots, turnips, garlic and onions and more at the Market. Plan to stock up as it's our last Winter Market until our regular season begins in June! Come participate by joining us as shoppers.
Thanks again to Gretchan Jackson for giving us some insight into eating local during the Winter! My hope is that there will no longer be an "off-season" for farmer's markets as the demand for local food in the winter increases. Let's finish the "Hunger Moon" well, and savor the rich and nourishing flavors of winter.
Join me on February 13th in attending the final Winter Stock-Up market from 11 am - 1 pm. See you all there!