Finding Fresh Farm Produce… In February

A woman from Heartland Family Farm with her roosterThe Bloomington Winter Farmers’ Market has started again and I am relieved to be able to chat with my favorite growers and pick up fresh, tasty foodstuffs. I only discovered the market last year after I started working for the Local Growers Guild, who took over the market last year. It’s one of the only winter markets in Indiana and one of only a handful of grower-run markets, even if you include summer markets.

 

So what is available in the frozen Midwest this time of year? Quite a surprising amount. Of course, there are certainly some staples that are available year round – eggs, meats, cheeses, honey – but there are also always fresh greens, winter squash, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and other produce. I’ve been introduced to kale and chard over the last few years, two hardy winter greens that taste even better after a hard frost. I’m told Brussels sprouts are the same but Will is not a fan and I’m not sure I can eat a whole batch myself. There are also lots of great prepared foods at the market, from frozen tamales to handcrafted chocolates to apple pies.

 

I’m on the committee that runs the market and we’re working to help find more preserved foods to have at the market – frozen fruit, canned vegetables, salsa, canned or frozen soup, dried fruits or vegetables, etc. The challenge (or one of them anyway) is that health code requirements are very strict. Any produce that is “changed from its original state” – read “cut or frozen or peeled or dehydrated or cooked” – must be processed in a certified commercial kitchen and appropriately labeled with nutritional information and all that jazz. This is a huge obstacle for a lot of small farmers who would love to do *something* with their extra 50 pounds of tomatoes in the summer but do not have the time or money to rent a certified facility, take the proper trainings, and develop appropriate labels.

 

Luckily, we just got a grant to build a kitchen specifically designed for folks who only want to rent it for a couple hours at a time, complete with business training and support. It’s a project I’m super excited to be working on, although it is a lot of work. And in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy our market and its fabulous goat cheese, fresh-pressed apple cider, beautiful butternut squash, and heavenly salad mixes including greens I’ve never heard of that simply melt away the winter blues.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Melanie said,

    February 12, 2008 @ 1:56 am

    When I read this article, I got so excited! I think that is the coolest idea ever. I wonder if they could introduce it to the FMs here in California.

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