The Bounty and Beauty of Winter Farmer’s Markets

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Lost Barn Farms root vegetables and garlic varieties.

We finally made it to a Vermont farmer’s market and we were utterly enchanted by the experience. I mistakenly thought that since we moved here in November, we had to wait to enjoy farmer’s markets until the warmer months. But our new area is quietly bountiful even in the wintertime, and the market-goer can find such delights as colorful root vegetables, jams and preserves, pickles, cheeses, meats, and handcrafted treasures to brighten the spirits and warm the heart.

December 23 was the last Putney Artisanal Marketplace, just in time to stock up on holiday cooking ingredients and procure last-minute, one-of-a-kind gifts. Drives like the one we took to get there make me fall in love with Vermont all over again. The weather was crisp and clear, with rare bright blue and cloudless skies enlivening the frosty countryside. We traversed miles of rolling pasture, broad meadows, melt-rushing creeks, and fern-lush woodland. At last the elegantly gnarled forms of squat apple trees came into view, stark against the perfect sky, and we reached the Green Mountain Orchards.

The moment we left the car, we were wonderfully assailed by the warm smells of sugar and smoke. Inside, the soft sounds of a hang drum rang through the air as we bought a gallon of rich, dark cider and a white paper bag of apples we had never heard of. We also bought black garlic from High Meadow Farm, and applewood smoked butter and cheddar from Bousquet Smoke House, because I had read about the butter ahead of time and had to have it. Besides, the smoked cheddar blocks were perfect for gift baskets.

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Parish Hill Creamery cheeses.

Thinking ahead to the many grilling sessions that await our freezer full of local grassfed steaks, we found freshly-grated horseradish from Lost Barn Farm and Polish pork sausage from Pine Ledge Farm for the cans of saurkraut awaiting their destiny in the pantry. We sampled raw milk tomme cheese from Livewater Farm and discovered gorgeous, miniscule strips of jowl bacon (from the pig’s head!) from Rebop Farm.

We missed out on the duck eggs unfortunately, but were lucky to score the last duck, a petite Pekin, from the gentleman of Sweet Pickins’ Farm. We ordered South Indian street food from Dosa Kitchen and met the smiling chef as he poured batter on round griddles. To conclude our trip, we experienced the sweet bliss that is a warm, fresh cider donut – every bite sends a shower of sugar like frosted breath.

I was also thrilled to get a much-needed new pair of laces for my well-worn Doc Martens: twilight-colored Vermont wool ones, made with ancient methods from Cabinfish Fiber Arts. Her colorful creations enticed from her booth and reminded us that there is so much more than food at farmer’s markets. They’re places of unique beauty at every turn.

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Teaching an old Doc new tricks with wool laces from Cabinfish Fiber Art.

We had a chance to meet the people that make all this fresh, epic food and art possible. Our purchases support them and their endeavors directly, and we are absolutely thrilled that it’s happening outside our doorstep, year-round. Farmer’s markets are truly a food lover’s dream, but the inspiration does not stop there.

Accordig to Sumner and Wever, farmer’s markets “offer season or year-round learning opportunities” (333) where visitors can:

ask questions, weigh the answers, and make choices, often in consultation with the primary producers…[Farmer’s markets] very existence — replete with tactile experiences, face-to-face engagement, and olfactory discoveries — challenges the global corporate food system… (333)

Not ony did we get to interact with artisans and farmers directly, we got to take the goods (many of which were new to us) home and use them for our own culinary adventures. The Putney Artisinal Marketplace is just the first of many farmer’s markets we will check out now that we live up here. They’re so much more intimate and interesting than grocery stores, and getting to meet the makers is priceless. It leads to a more hands-on appreciation with food, and a deeper connection to where it comes from.

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Fresh Green Mountain Orchards cider donuts.

 

Works Cited

Sumner, Jennifer and Cassie Wever. “Pedogogical Encounters: Critical Pedagogy and Transformative Learnign in the School and Community.” Conversations in Food Studies, edited by Colin R. Anderson et al., Manitoba UP, 2016, p. 33.

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