Local Food- for Sale All Winter!
While it’s colder outside and our gardens have gotten sleepy or been put “to bed”, many local farmers still have products to offer. Farmers may sell fresh produce or foods that can be stored such as apples, squash and potatoes, meats, jams, jellies, pickles, and dry goods. Winter income is very important to farms as it ensures that funds are available for spring purchases such as seeds, fertilizers, and equipment. Caldwell County has a number of local foods outlets that are open throughout the winter, and there are several markets in neighboring counties that sell Caldwell-grown products.
You may ask, what fresh produce can be grown through the winter? Farms in this area can produce anything from cold-hardy crops such as spinach and kale to traditional warm season crops such as tomatoes or cucumbers. Cold-hardy crops can be grown in a season extension structure such as a high tunnel, or unheated greenhouse. These have a plastic covering, and greens and cold hardy roots such as turnips, beets, and carrots, are grown throughout the winter in these structures. Many cold-hardy crops can also be grown outside under a fabric covering, called ‘row cover’. Row cover comes in different weights and typically offers 2-8 degrees of protection, depending on weight. Warm season crops grown in winter must be grown inside a heated greenhouse that keeps the temperature at or above minimum temperatures required for the crop to grow.
There are several area farmers markets that remain open through the winter or operate only in winter. Some of these markets are inside for vendor and customer comfort. Here are a few area winter markets:
Lenoir Downtown Farmers Market
385 Harper Ave, Lenoir, NC 28465
Winter hours- Thursdays, 10 AM – 6 PM & Saturdays, 10 AM – 2 PM
Winter Farmers Market- The Crossing at Hollar Mill
The Crossing, 883 Highland Avenue SE, Hickory, NC 28602
Wednesdays 10 am- 2 pm
November 1, 2017- April 18, 2018
Boone Winter Farmers Market – Watauga Agricultural Center
252 Poplar Grove Road, Boone, NC 28607
1st & 3rd Saturdays of each month, 9 am- 12 pm, December – April
Ample Acre Farm (3435 Coy Miller Road, Lenoir, NC) has a farmstand that will remain open to the public through the winter, selling fresh produce and honey. There are a number of other farms that while they do not operate a farmstand, may sell locally through a number of outlets. For a list of farms in Caldwell County that sell directly to the consumer or through local outlets, please visit the Caldwell County Local Food Guide at: https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/local-food-guide/.
If you are in Boone on Wednesdays, there is now a Food Hub that features all locally-produced items for sale, located at the Watauga Agricultural Conference Center (252 Poplar Grove Road, Boone, NC 28607). The High Country Food Hub offers storage space that farmers can rent as needed to store dry goods, frozen meats, and produce. It also has an online marketplace through which customers can order local food on a weekly basis. The Food Hub carries everything from meats and produce to baked goods, locally roasted coffee, local milk, eggs, and cheese, soaps, and more. Customers place orders online between Thursday at 12 noon and Monday at 11:59 pm, and pick up their order at the Food Hub on Wednesday between 11:30 am and 5:30 pm. For more information or to place an order, visit their website: foodhub.brwia.org.
Purchasing local food offers a number of benefits to the community. Farms employ people from the surrounding community and purchase many supplies locally. Research shows that local food purchases have an economic ‘multiplier effect’ of $1.32 to $1.90- that is, for every $1 spent on local food, an additional $0.32 to $0.90 is transferred to the local economy in the form of jobs or income for other local businesses. Many local foods purchases are made directly by the customer from the farm. This kind of ‘direct marketing’ leads to the highest part of each dollar spent staying with the farmer. In contrast, food you purchase from a grocery store may have traveled through one or two ‘middlemen’, and less of each dollar spent ends up with the farmer. Farms that market directly are more likely to realize profits year after year. Farms that direct market produce are also able to harvest at peak ripeness or at ideal times, so the food tends to be fresher, and have improved flavor and nutritional value. Finally, purchasing directly from a local farmer helps build relationships in the community.
So, this winter, make a commitment to buying local foods as well as locally made gifts, whenever possible. Your farmers will be grateful for the support and their businesses will benefit. It may take an extra stop in the grocery errands or going a little out of the way, but purchasing local foods goes a long way in supporting our farmers, supporting the local economy, and preserving area farmland. For information on where to purchase specific products locally, contact farmers listed in the Caldwell Local Food Guide (https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/local-food-guide/), or the N.C. Cooperative Extension-Caldwell County Center at 828-757-1290, Monday – Friday, 8 am- 5 pm.