Isn't this lettuce gorgeous? I bought it at the Brunswick Winter Farmers Market a few weeks ago. I also bought kale, spinach, and chard. Onions, garlic, and leeks. Potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, whole-wheat flour, navy beans, and some freshly pressed cider. Oh, and some knockout tomatillo salsa too! All of it grown right here in midcoast Maine.
Not so long ago, it wasn't this easy to find fresh local food all winter long. It's amazing what our farmers bring to market now, thanks to hoop houses, improved storage facilities, and a ton of hard work. Even on the coldest and snowiest Saturdays, they've supplied us with amazing greens and so much more. Six River Farm in Bowdoinham, for example, brings as many as 25 different crops to the winter market. By mid-February, when the challenge of growing and harvesting greens reaches its peak, that number drops to about 18. These are remarkable numbers; we live in planting zone 5b, where the annual extreme cold temperature is regularly as low as minus 10 or minus 15 degrees!
The farmers are accomplishing this, in part, with a combination of unheated hoop houses and, inside them, row covers on their crops. If you're interested in doing some four-season gardening yourself, check out one of Eliot Coleman's books on the subject: The Winter Harvest Handbook or Four-Season Harvest.
The photos here (thanks, Jan!) are just a small sampling of what you can find at the Brunswick winter market. There's also seafood, poultry, beef, and lamb; eggs and dairy, including great artisanal cheeses; baked goods, spices, and locally roasted coffee; beautiful crafts; and foot-stompin' live music. You can even get your knives sharpened!
If you think eating locally in winter is pie-in-the-sky impossible, please think again. We are fortunate beyond words to have such amazing farmers in Maine. And more winter markets are popping up every year; the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association currently lists 28, in 13 of our 16 counties. The Brunswick market is open every Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M, from mid-November through April. See you there!