Winter Farmers Markets Thriving
In the lexicon of catch-all phrases, “farm to table” has become old hat. But the concept is still alive and well, and Mainers are fortunate to have so many indoor winter markets for which our fix on local foods is readily available year round.
There are nearly 30 throughout the state (100 in the summer), most of which have or will soon be open for business on Saturdays and Sundays for the next four months.
For a complete list go to: mofga.net/Directories/FarmersMarkets/tabid/352/Default.aspx
Portland Indoor Winter Market opened this Saturday to great crowds of shoppers who snapped up plentiful winter vegetables, meats, cheese, and dairy at their favorite Portland vendors.
But increasingly more available is a great troika of hoop house and greenhouse greens like kale, chard, and spinach as well as many Asian greens like bok choy.
From farmers' root cellars, a season-long supply of potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onions are plentiful. Some of the top produce Portland vendors include Fish Bowl Farm, Thirty Acre Farm, Green Spark Farm, and many others that we’ve come to know at the summer Monument Square and Deering Park markets.
There are a few newcomers at the Portland market this year, like Nezinscot Farm from Turner. They offer a variety of the hearty breads, eggs, cottage cheese, butter, and lamb raised at the farm.
The Brunswick Indoor Market at the Fort Andross complex is one of the largest markets with nearly 50 vendors. You can get just about everything there including a terrific array of baked goods, organic vegetables, breads, and every variety of meats, cheese, dairy and crafts. Some of the best heritage pork, for instance, is being raised by Gryffon Ridge, more known for their specialty line of spices, both of which are popular at the Brunswick marketplace.
Some of the other specialty vendors include Balfour Farm Dairy with organic raw milk, cream, buttermilk. hand-churned butter, several varieties of yogurts, and many cheeses. Diversity Farm is another dairy vendor with incredible thick Jersey cream made by Amish farmers in Thorndike.
Spring Day Creamery is a cheese vendor worth visiting, too. Their brie, blue cheese, and other semi-soft cheeses have won many awards.
For prepared foods, don’t miss Mi Mexico. Here at last is real Mexican cooking prepared by Debra Rodriguez Gaspardi, a Freeport caterer and cooking teacher who specializes in her native cuisine. Her taco chips are incredible — salty, spicy, crisp, with a nice lime finish. Her prepared dishes like tamales, enchiladas, frijoles, and more are like none you’ve had anywhere in Maine — -even in the more highly touted restaurants that have hit the scene lately.
Other favorite stops include Judy’s Kitchen, whose old-fashioned pies like coconut custard and various berry pies are wonderful. Another baking vendor to visit is the Farmer’s Daughter who makes wonderful fruit-spiked English muffins and mile-high popovers. Bowdoin Baking Company is another baker with some tempting sweets. Try her melting moments cookies — utterly sweetly superb.
Some of the premium organic vegetable vendors are Buckwheat Blossom Farm, Six River Farm, and Goranson Farms for a great selection of potatoes, and Fairwind Farm, which offers its own milled corn meal and dried beans, in addition to potatoes and root vegetables.
A compelling addition to the winter market lineup is the Saco River Winter Market. It’s located in downtown Saco at the incredible Island Point complex on Saco Island. Go down Main Street in Saco and cross the bridge to reach this compelling center overlooking the rushing river amidst the backdrop of the of old mill buildings.
The space is a vivid example of post-and-beam and brick construction, and this is one of the most attractive lively markets I’ve visited. The vendors there include a lot of bakers, makers of prepared foods, vegetable growers, and craftspeople.
Going to other market locations opens up a whole world of what’s being grown, harvested and created from Maine’s vast farming community. From York to Orono, the Maine market landscape has grown tremendously. It’s become one of the few states in the cold climate archipelago that has so many heretofore “unseasonal” markets thriving.
And while many of us have allegiance to the farmers we’ve gotten to know in our specific communities, Maine’s “buy local” slogan makes our small world that much larger.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at email@example.com.