Get fresh at a Winter Farmers Market
by Margaret McCormick - Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
Low Season: The harvest is long past, but there’s plenty at the market.

The fields are frozen and wear a blanket of snow. We do a happy dance when the temperature registers above 20 degrees. A juicy, red-ripe, homegrown tomato is the stuff of fantasy.

It’s the dead of winter. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing seasonal and local for home cooks to have on their shopping lists and menus. Get fresh and buy local at a winter farmers market. There are an increasing number of them in Central New York to choose from.

Neil Miller–founder of Farmshed CNY and creator of the Farmshed directory and mobile app, a listing of 1,600 farmers markets, farms, CSAs, wineries, artisanal food producers and more–says winter farmers markets are sprouting up all over the place. He recently added winter markets in Waterville, Watkins Glen, Penfield and Oneonta to the Farmshed directory.

There’s a market in an American Legion Post (Cazenovia), a restaurant (Circa; also in Cazenovia), a restored train station (Utica), a fire station (Westmoreland) and a community center (Poolville). And let’s not forget the Central New York Regional Market, still open on Saturdays, year-round.

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Photo: Parry’s Website

The award for quirkiest winter farmers market in the region goes to Parry’s, a hardware and “modern-day general store” in Hamilton, where shoppers will find locally raised grass-fed meats, produce, baked goods, cheeses, yogurt, eggs, salsa, honey, maple products and more among the aisles of plumbing supplies, sporting goods and home and garden items.

“We do have an unusual indoor farmers market,” says Gwenn Werner, co-owner of Parry’s with her husband, Evan. The store also boasts a bulk foods department. No wonder locals say, “If Parry’s doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.”

Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York, says there are 116 winter markets in all corners of New York, and that the number has increased every year for the past five years.

For vendors like Aileen Randolph, of Empire Buffalo, a buffalo farm near Chittenango, the winter markets are a boon for business–and their specialty product, all cuts of bison meat–in what is traditionally a slow season.

“Winter markets are great for us,” Randolph says. “They provide us an outlet for retail sales with customers who are committed to buying local foods. And since the markets are only once a month, we get to be at a different market almost every week, meeting great, new people.”

“As a specialty product,” she adds, “we need as many people as possible to know we’re here.”

Randolph and her husband, Joe Lazarsky, participate in the Cazenovia Winter Market (third Saturday of the month), Circa Winter Market (first Saturday of the month) and occasionally at the Westmoreland Winter Market (also first Saturday of the month).

Neil Miller, of Farmshed, lives near Cazenovia and makes it a point to visit as many winter markets as possible. Each has its strengths, he says. Miller also admits a particular fondness for the Poolville Winter Market.

The Poolville Winter Farmers Market takes place in the Poolville Community Center. (Photo: Local Harvest Website)

The Poolville Winter Farmers Market takes place in the Poolville Community Center. (Photo: Local Harvest Website)

The Poolville market fills the main room at the Poolville Community Center on Willey Road. It features a variety of vendors selling such things as meats, mushrooms, aquaponic salad greens and jams and jellies. Guest chefs from local restaurants prepare hot lunch offerings for the market’s cafe.

The market convenes for just two hours, and the room fills up fast. It’s as much about greeting friends and neighbors in the harsh of winter as it is about purchasing goods from local growers and producers.

“They’ve got a great group of regional growers vending there,” Miller says. “It’s everything a winter market should be.”

Roasted Winter Squash Soup

What you might find at a winter farmers market

Produce: Apples, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards and mustard greens, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, aquaponic and hoop-house raised salad greens, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Meats: Bacon, beef, bison, pork, lamb, turkey, venison

Other: Cheese, eggs, yogurt, local grains and pasta, preserved fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, honey, maple syrup and maple products, salsa and sauces, homemade breads and other baked goods

Here is a list of winter markets in Central New York:

Cazenovia Farmers Market
Third Saturday of the month, November to April.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
American Legion Post 88, 26 Chenango St., Cazenovia.

Central New York Regional Market
Open Saturdays, year-round.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
2100 Park St., Syracuse.

Circa Winter Farmers Market
First Saturday of the month, December to April.
Hours: 9 a.m. to noon (stay for lunch, if you can).
Circa Restaurant, 76 Albany St., Cazenovia.

Homer Winter Farmers Market
Third Saturday of the month, until March.
Hours: Saturday, Jan. 18, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in February and March.
Jan. 18: Building behind 12 Main St., Homer; remaining dates: Phillips Free Library, 37 S. Main St, Homer.

Ithaca Farmers Market Indoor Winter Market
Saturdays, through March 29.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Space at Greenstar Market, 700 W. Buffalo St., Ithaca.

Morrisville Indoor Farmers Market
First Saturday of the month, December to April.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Madison Hall (second floor), 100 E. Main St., Morrisville.

Oneida County Public Market
Second Saturday of the month, January to April.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Historic Union Station (lobby), Utica.

Poolville Farmers Market
Second and fourth Saturday of the month, November to April.
Hours: 10 a.m. to noon.
Poolville Community Center, 7484 Willey Road, Poolville.

Waterville Winter Farmers Market
Thursdays, biweekly, Dec. 5 to May 22.
Hours: 2 to 6 p.m.
Waterville Bank Building, 114 E. Main St., Waterville.

Westmoreland Winter Farmers Market
First Saturday of the month, November to April.
Hours: 9 a.m. to noon.
Westmoreland Firehouse, Station Road, Westmoreland.

Margaret McCormick is a freelance writer and editor in Syracuse. She blogs about food at eatfirst.typepad.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mmccormickcny.