Cook local year round thanks to four-season farmers’ markets
The months between November and March used to be when farmers were “off”—at least in the sense of not constantly tending to a harvest and hauling goods to farmers’ markets two hours away. But a farmer’s job is never really done, as winter brings its own preparations, considerations and planning—especially if a farmer’s growing for a winter market.
During the past few years, winter markets have become a real and viable thing in southeastern Pennsylvania. Farmers are realizing the benefits of producing for the winter markets, so we’re seeing more greens than ever before. Storage methods have improved, making apples and potatoes available through the cold season, and farmers are getting more skilled at growing veggies in insulated high tunnels during winter. Our winter markets’ bounty could hardly be mistaken for that of Southern California, but we do now have at least some local produce available all year.
There’s a certain kind of diehard consumer who attends these markets. Folks swaddle themselves in layers of scarves and coats to brave whatever the elements have in store—snow, rain, mud, biting wind. I like to think it makes us a little more mindful of the adverse conditions farmers must fight in order to bring us our food. I’ve seen everything from the requisite squashes, onions and potatoes, along with pears and apples, to cheeses, prepared foods, mushrooms, kale, Swiss chard, radishes and even some broccoli and cauliflower, depending on the season.
There’s also a certain kind of community building that takes place in the winter, when we’re all starving for Vitamin D and fighting off winter isolation. There’s one bright spot, and it’s getting bigger: You can make meals in the winter from foods sourced locally. Believe it.
Trexlertown Farmers Market
“We actually get more people when the weather is bad
then on nicer days,” says Funderburk. “I think people
just like to say that they came out in bad weather.”
Located in the western end of the Lehigh Valley, Trexlertown’s one of the newer markets; the regular season just wrapped up its third year, and the winter market is just entering its second year. In the summer, this market does a brisk business. This producer-only venue is hyper-local, prioritizing growers from within a 30-mile radius.
“It’s incredible, the amount of support from the community and customers we’ve had, in order to have this strong of a market in only a few years. It’s a real credit to the quality of our growers and producers,” says the market’s organizer, Dax Funderburk of Beets Workin’ Farm in Mertztown.
When I showed up, it was cold, damp and snowy. Still, people come out.
“We actually get more people when the weather is bad then on nicer days,” says Funderburk. “I think people just like to say that they came out in bad weather.”
In the process, they can find all manner of greens at Beets Workin’. The produce is so beautiful it belongs in an agricultural textbook: lettuce mix, sunflower shoots, Meadowlark “curly” kale, a mix of mustard and Asian greens and some of the most colorful Swiss chard I’ve seen in the winter. You can’t throw those stems away.
Funderburk also says they grow 18 varieties of garlic. But the most interesting thing I purchased that snowy day was kale rapini—the result of overwintered kale plants whose shoots taste more like broccoli than kale. It was so delicious that my 8-year-old twin boys ate it raw. It didn’t make it to the pan for the obligatory sauté with olive oil and garlic.
Trexlertown has a few bakers including stellar cupcakes from Warm Sugar—and the supplies for baked goods. Standouts include Red Cat Farm of Germansville, known for its heirloom grains and freshly harvested local oats like you’ve never had before. Red Cat’s oats aren’t rolled flat like oats from large-scale production facilities—they’re wonderfully irregular in texture, with a nutty taste.
John Glagola is the Wayfare Baker, and this former Bolete restaurant pastry chef is so phenomenally good at what he does that many restaurants in the region don’t even bother baking their own bread. Every week brings a truckload of freshly baked, super-healthy breads, all made from fresh sourdough starters with organic flours Glagola mills himself with Pennsylvania grain. Funderburk says the market anticipates 15 vendors this winter and is aiming to bring in more prepared-food and pastured-meat vendors. Bundle up.
TREXLERTOWN FARMERS’ MARKET
Valley Preferred Cycling Center/The Velodrome
1151 Mosser Road, Breinigsville
1st and 3rd Saturdays,
Wrightstown Farmers Market
The Wrightstown winter market has a distinct advantage—it’s indoors. That is perhaps one of its selling points for both vendors and shoppers alike. Wrightstown is as robust as any warm-weather farmers’ market I’ve been to, including its summer one, which has 30 vendors.
“We were flooded with requests, and had to turn down a number of vendors,” says market manager Cheryl Gilmore. “We have 30 to 35 for our winter season.” In fact, due to rising interest, it’s entirely possible that Wrightstown will extend its market time another hour or so. “We’re asking people to check our website and Facebook pages as the season gets closer,” she adds.
Last winter, Wrightstown offered everything from soaps and honey to baked goods and dog treats. There are a couple of produce vendors, along with a newish distillery—Eight Oaks, located in New Tripoli, which uses grain from its own farms and apples from Scholl Orchards for products such as applejack, vodka, gin and rum.
Because its location in Bucks County is not far from New Jersey, Wrightstown attracts New Jersey vendors such as Flemington’s Locktown Farm, which was offering samples of kombucha (I bought a zippy grapefruit one) along with some of its kimchi and krauts, all brightly colored thanks to ingredients such as beets and turmeric. Another find is Fulper Family Farmstead in Lambertville, New Jersey, which produces super-creamy dairy products such as its Creamline whole milk, which is pasteurized but not homogenized. It is used to produce cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella and cheddar, along with yogurt. The ricotta is the creamiest I’ve experienced, with not a trace of grit.
One of the rewarding things about shopping at multiple markets, regardless of season, is that you begin to see repeat vendors overlapping. It expands the definition of community and makes you realize that we’re all in this together, this effort toward sustainability, and there are a lot more of us than there ever were—all year round.
THE BARN AT THE GATHERING
2324 2nd Street Pike, Wrightstown, PA
2nd and 4th Saturdays, hours TBA
A Few other Winter Favorites
Clark Park Farmers’ Market
43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, West Philadelphia
10am–2pm; Saturday (year-round)
Lombard and Second Streets, Philadelphia, Society Hill
10 am–2 pm (year-round)
Easton Farmers’ Market
Centre Square, Easton
May–December: 9am–1pm, Saturdays
January–April: 10am–12 noon, 2nd and 4th Saturdays
Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market
18th and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia
9am–3pm, Saturdays (year-round)