Customer: When does this market close?
Vendor: 1:30 PM
Customer: No, I mean when does it close for the season.
I have that exchange at least twice a week now that fall has arrived. As a Central Farm Markets vendor at Bethesda, I get to see the faces of inquiring customers bloom with delight when I tell them the Bethesda and Mosaic markets operate year-round, with reduced hours (10 am-1:30 pm) January through March.
Why have a winter market?
“It’s what our customers demanded,” said Mitch Berliner, co-founder of Central Farm Markets, emphasizing by adding, “They really demanded it.” That was six years ago at Bethesda, with Mosaic being added three years later. Both winter markets offer approximately half the number of vendors.
About the same time that Central Farm Markets instituted a winter market, Toigo Orchards, Twin Springs Fruit Farm and Bending Bridge Farm undertook infrastructure expansions allowing for extensions of their growing season and storage capacities to better facilitate year-round markets. “It’s important to us that our customers have year-round access to healthy food,” said Audrey Fisher-Pedersen, co-founder of Bending Bridge Farm which has attended all the winter seasons thus far with Certified Organic produce.
Farm practices and philosophies are as varied as our customers, meaning that not all producers are able or choose to sustain year-round production or invest in technical mass storage systems. January, February and March are the three coldest months in the mid-Atlantic region. Season-extending greenhouse technologies get put to good use by vendors such as Toigo, Bending Bridge and Young Harvests, but the reality is not everything can be grown indoors. Even with the use of greenhouses and insulating row covers, the growth rates are dependent on temperature and sunlight.
Rob Young, owner of Young Harvests laments having limited greens due to the weather fluctuations, “Our greens don’t grow much without sunshine or with extremely cold temperatures.” Even the recent ongoing cloudy and rainy days have had an impact Young Harvests’ production as anyone who has shopped the latter part of the day and found themselves staring at his empty bins.
Lucas Brownback of Spiral Path Farm explained why he chooses to not attend winter market. “Most of our crops are seasonally grown in open fields. We believe in giving our soil time to regenerate, and the farmers need a break, too,” but Lucas pointed out that come January the crew is right back at it seeding for a new season in the greenhouses.
Let’s all repeat the word together again – S E A S O N A L – and talk about the timeline for the transition from the regular market season to the winter markets.
November 17th will be the last Saturday market for the Pike and Westfield markets this year. However, on Tuesday, November 20th there will be a Thanksgiving Market taking place at the Pike Central Farm Market location that will host vendors from all the markets who have products such as fresh turkeys, prepared goods, fruits and vegetables, etc. Keep in mind that not all vendors attend this market. A full list of vendors will be posted online and sent out in the market’s weekly email prior to the event.
The Sunday following Thanksgiving (November 25) there will be no markets. No one will have any room in their refrigerator to store more food. Eat your leftovers and let the farmers enjoy the holiday weekend with our families. We will all return to Mosaic and Bethesda on Sunday, December 2 with the regular Sunday schedule until January 6, 2019 when the winter market schedule (10 am – 1:30 pm) kicks in along with the Customer Loyalty Program.
But my favorite part about winter market is when the regulars gripe about the cold weather. I remind them that during the summer when everyone was sweating off their turnips, I told them this day would come.