In this age of virtual stuffing and basting — when you can order a Thanksgiving Dinner online and have it brought to your door, without ever exchanging more than a couple of words to the people who bring it — winter farmer markets fill a definite niche.
Laura Henderson, founder and executive director of the Indianapolis Winter Farmers Market (IWFM), puts it this way: “It’s about seeing friends and making new friends and having a vibrant community experience at the time of year when we often see people the least,” she says.
Winter markets are up and running at the Indianapolis City Market, Carmel City Center and Traders Point Creamery — and at spots well within driving distance, like Bloomington (at Harmony School, Saturdays 9 a.m.-noon.) and Fort Wayne (1936 W. Main St., Saturdays 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
Henderson started IWFM - which has moved this year to the Indianapolis City Market - in 2008 because, she says, “I was downtown, and there wasn’t a farmers’ market in the winter, and I wanted one.”
“I had been regularly attending the Traders’ Point market in the winter so I knew that there was product available,” Henderson continues. “And I got to know a lot of farmers and producers in the summer markets and the winter markets. I knew that they would be excited about another opportunity to sell their product in the winter. It’s hard to run a business when you really only have an outlet for six months out of the year.”
Vegetables can be — and are — grown all through the winter months in the Hoosier state, with the aid of greenhouses and hoop houses. Henderson is quick to list some of the fresh produce available by local farmers at the market: “an abundance of carrots and turnips…radishes and rutabaga and lettuce and spinach and arugula and broccoli.”
Meat is also available at the IWFM, and Darby Simpson of the Martinsville-based Simpson’s Farm Market, which specializes in “pasture-raised, beyond organic” poultry and pork, has benefitted from the consumer demand created by the winter market. “[Simpson] told me on numerous occasions that having the winter market has enabled him not to have to work off farm,” says Henderson.
In addition to meat and vegetables, you can find such items as baked goods, herbs, and natural cleaning products at the Indy Winter Farmers Market. The first IWFM in the City Market took place November 12, and there was a “great crowd,” according to Henderson, although she is hoping for even greater response on future Saturdays, so none of the farmer vendors have to take home any of their produce.
But for those Northside and Carmel residents who find the City Market too long a haul, there’s an alternative: the Winter Market at the Carmel City Center, which will make its debut Saturday, November 19, starting at 9:00 a.m.
“The Carmel Farmers’ Market had their season this past summer on the Center Green which is within Carmel City Center…and that was really successful,” says Michelle Krcmery, marketing director for the Carmel City Center. “People really enjoyed having it in City Center. We had an available storefront and we thought it would be a great way to try to continue the momentum by having a winter version of the market.”
The Winter Market will be situated inside the brand new Carmel City Center complex on Saturdays through March 17, 2012. Vendors will include Amazing Potato Chip Company, Grabow Orchard and Bakery and Norman Mullet Farms, among others.
Being able to mix and mingle with the people who actually grow the food they sell to you is a real plus, according to Henderson. But to some, this way of shopping might seem old-fashioned.
“There was a guy who stopped by I was talking to last week,” says Henderson. “He said, ‘I remember the City Market the way it used to be when there were all these farmers.’ I said, ‘Well come back on Saturday, you’ll get to see some of that here.’ He was like, ‘It’ll be nostalgic.’” I was like, ‘It’ll be present-day nostalgia.’”