Farmers find a winter niche with indoor markets – Times Herald

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ROSENDALE — At the Rosendale Farmers Market on Sunday, vendors peddled fresh, local produce, food and other goods at a winter market, a growing trend throughout the country.

Billy Liggan of Rosendale, one of the market’s volunteer managers, said the winter market provides small, local farms a venue to sell goods all in one place, whereas in the past there may have been few options.

“It gives a sustainable income in the nontraditional farming months,” said Liggan.

The market, held inside the Rosendale Community Center, is held on the first Sunday of each month through April.

Miriam Latzer of Loose Caboose Farm in Columbia County said she plants seeds in her greenhouse in October. The dirt inside is insulated from frost by a surrounding trench and foam. By Sunday, her shiny, green tatsoi — a type of Asian spinach — and fresh, crunchy arugula were ready for sale.

“It tastes heavenly, by the way,” said Kathy Puffer of Tillson, as Latzer filled up a bag of tatsoi for her.

A local and national trend

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Farmers Market Directory now lists 1,864 winter markets throughout the country. That’s up 52 percent from last year. Winter markets that operate at least once between November and March account for nearly 24 percent of the directory’s 7,865 farmers markets.

In the mid-Hudson, Ulster has six and Orange and Sullivan counties, one each, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Statewide, New York tallies 109 winter markets.

In the past, winter — especially in climates with shorter growing seasons — often meant lower income for farmers, according to the USDA. But with wider use of cost-effective options such as hoop houses and more affordable, eco-friendly greenhouse heating options, small and mid-size farmers are now able to extend their growing seasons, making year-round markets more viable.

Despite the increase in such markets, vendors admit there are often fewer customers in the winter. But Franny Hales of New Windsor, selling various hot sauces, olive oil and other goods, said the market was about more than dollar signs. She said it was a way for neighbors to support local food and business, and build a stronger community.

“It’s getting back to the roots of things … If you get here in the morning, most of the vendors are shopping with each other,” said Hales.

For some, like Wayne Miller, a chocolatier from West Saugerties who makes chocolate from scratch in his home, the traditional summer farmers market just isn’t an option.

“I’d have chocolate soup,” he said.

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