A hunger for winter markets
Q. How does a winter farmers’ market differ from those held during growing season?
A. Produce is still the most popular item. That’s the reason people come. We do have more supplemental vendors, though: baked goods, cheeses, chocolate. We have more meat and fish vendors. We have more root vegetables, of course. Also, we’re the first farmers’ market in Massachusetts to have wineries as vendors. A lot of summer markets will start to have wineries now, too.
Q. Any other differences?
A. The atmosphere is very different, because the market is indoors. The armory has been a great scene. It’s crazy. We’ve had music every week. We have educational programming, community activities, kids’ activities, a face painter, and a winter-market scavenger hunt. It’s a meeting place, really. There’s such a social atmosphere. That’s the part I’m most excited about, people having a social experience while they do their shopping.
Q. Is it harder getting vendors for a winter market?
A. Not harder, more complicated.
Q. How popular has it been with growers?
A. We had lots of farmers apply who we couldn’t accept. We have guest vendors who come for a week or two, and at least five new ones call me each week.
Q. It sounds as though it’s been a success across the board.
A. Oh, yes.
Q. More successful than expected?
A. We thought it would be popular, but no one expected 2,000 people to show up that first day [Jan. 8]. A lot of vendors sold out. And attendance has pretty much remained constant. We started out having vendors just on the first floor. Now they’re on the second floor, too. Every Saturday morning so far, when the doors open at 10, there’s been a line out there on Highland Avenue. There’s a hunger for winter markets now.
Q. Will it be back next year?
A. Oh, yeah. It will be back by popular demand. They’re already applying for grants.
Q. How does a person become a farmers’ market manager?
A. You have to be good at organizing a lot at once — and juggling! It helps to have some knowledge about the issues farmers face. I got that a bit, because I worked for SEMAP [Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership] after college, as an intern. Then at the Farm to School project, where I got a little bit of background learning what farmers deal with in selling to markets.
Q. You really seem to enjoy your job.
A. Oh, this is really fun. This job is 15 hours a week, and it’s my favorite part of the week. I also work at Green City Growers, in Somerville, which promotes backyard farming, and I feel lucky to have two farming-related jobs which complement each other!
Q. It would seem you’ve found your calling.
A. Yeah, I definitely have. I’m very excited about it. This fall I’m starting in the urban and environmental policy and planning program, at Tufts, and that’s a big part of all these issues, too, because it is a big part of local food access issues, too.
Q. Do you have any favorite items you like to get at the winter farmers’ market?
A. I have to say the coffee. It’s from Hi Rise. My favorite thing, actually, is the chocolate chip banana bread, from Cook’s [Farm].
Q. That sounds awfully rich to me.
A. It is rich. That’s why I like it.
Interview was condensed and edited. Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.