The Salem, NH Farmer’s Market — In Winter

Not many people realize that farmer’s markets exist in the winter, but they do.  They are few and far-between, and some don’t operate every week, but you should be able to find a couple within a reasonable distance from your home, if your home is in southern New Hampshire.  You can find a partial list of New Hampshire winter markets here.  Remarkably, what’s missing from that list is the Salem, NH Farmer’s Market, an excellent market that is slightly off the beaten path and hosted at the Lake Street Garden Center. Tucked away within a residential neighborhood, Lake Street is a surprisingly large center that lends outdoor space to the market in the summer and generously lends greenhouse space to the market in winter.

Salem Farmer's Market sign in the snow on Lake Street
Salem Farmer’s Market sign in the snow on Lake Street

A lot of hard work goes into making this market a success, including regular recipe features on WMUR television and social media activity.  No cash? A few venders take credit cards, but you can also purchase tokens at the information desk with credit cards or SNAP cards.  Sometimes there’s music.  Sometimes there’s face painting. Sometimes there’s cooking demos.

Because it’s winter, you will find more meat than produce – and there was a good selection to be had this Sunday.  I believe all the meat was sold frozen and this is the common way meat is sold at farmer’s markets.

Brookford Farm had an amazing display of milk and cheese products, including raw milk, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, quark, cheddar, brie, blue and feta. Market customers were exchanging empty glass bottles for new filled bottles of milk, keeping the vendor busy ducking out of the greenhouse to his refrigerated truck filled with goodies.  They were the only vendor selling dairy, but equally as popular was their grass fed beef products and pasture raised pork and chicken, including maple bacon.  Ground beef sold for $10.00 a pound and sausage sold for $12.00 a pound.

A selection of cheeses available from Brookford Farm
A selection of cheeses available from Brookford Farm
A listing of available pork offerings from Brookford Farm
A listing of available pork offerings from Brookford Farm

But that’s not all.  They also had a small selection of root vegetables and bags of flour milled from their own wheat, grown GMO-free on their farm in Canterbury, NH — One of the very few growers of wheat in New England!

Hurd Farm, from Hampton, NH, raises grass-fed beef, all-natural, pasture-fed chicken and turkey and all-natural heritage breed pork.  They were offering several cuts of beef, pork chops and sausage and whole turkeys and chickens.  Italian sausage sold for $9.99 a pound and Ground Beef sold at $6.99 a pound.  You can find Hurd Farm at several farmer’s markets in Rockingham County and also at the farm on Wednesdays and Fridays, where you will also find fresh eggs and maybe some laying hens for purchase!

The Hurd Farm team at the Salem Market
The Hurd Farm team at the Salem Market

Miner Family Farm, from Merrimack, NH, had the only offering of lamb at the market.  They also sold cuts of beef, pork and chicken, plus chicken and duck eggs, along with their own branded selection of dried herbs and spices. Ground beef sold for $7.00 a pound and Italian sausage sold for $6.50 a pound.

The price board for the Vernon Family Farm
The price board for the Vernon Family Farm

If you want chicken, Vernon Family Farm has it in all forms – whole birds, butchered, sausage, stock & soup and even organ meat.  Sausage sold for $10 a pound.  Their Cornish-cross birds are pasture raised with additional organic grain feed on the farm in Newfields, NH.  They also sell Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms!

The only vendor this past Sunday with an extensive collection of produce was Arrowhead Farm from Newburyport, MA.  Besides cold storage staples like potatoes and onions, Arrowhead featured a variety of greens and herbs freshly grown in their solar greenhouses.  Arrowhead also uses the Salem Farmer’s Market for some of its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pickups, and it has one of the larger selection of CSA options I have seen in the area, so that is worth checking out.

The Arrowhead Farm booth, bursting with produce
The Arrowhead Farm booth, bursting with produce

A wild blueberry distributor had a booth.  Representing eight family farms in Maine, including Wild Wescogus Berries in Addison, Orcutt Farm in Steuben, and Dan-a-Dew Wild Blueberry Farm in Blue Hill, he was selling 17oz containers of individually quick frozen berries for $9.99. Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated blueberries but contain twice the antioxidants.  And they are delicious.

Delicious Wild Maine Blueberries!!
Delicious Wild Maine Blueberries!!

Dried herbs, herbal Teas, and infused honey and oil were available from Wilton, NH’s Bee Fields Farm.  Anderson’s Mini-Maples from Deerfield, NH provided the necessary maple syrup products.

Finally, every farmer’s market that I visit have local vendors selling their own homemade small-batch foods, which may or may not be sourced from locally grown/raised products and this market is no exception.  This past Sunday you could pick up organic breads, pancake mixes, mustards, jams and jellies from The Fresh Plate of Amherst.  You need to act fast. There was only two loaves of bread left by the time I got there.

There was coffee from Salem, NH’s Farmhouse Roasters, chocolate from Salem’s KRM Chocolates  and cookies from Windham’s ‘Cuz it’s Good!

If you wanted lunch right there, you could grab some Puerto Rican from Kingston, NH’s El Camino or some Ukrainian from East Kingston’s Bucovina Cuisines.  Or snack on some organic baked beans from West Hopkinton’s Breakwind Farm (that’s right).

Tefteli and Pasta in Red Sauce by Bucovina Cuisines
Tefteli and Pasta in Red Sauce by Bucovina Cuisines

The Salem, NH Farmer’s Market is open every Sunday from 10-2, all year long.

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Shopping for Local Produce in the Off Season

Can the average New Englander find produce grown in New England at an average New England supermarket on an average winter day?  I went to my neighborhood Shaw’s to find out.

If you want to eat local, should you even bother with a supermarket?  We all know that most of the produce you find in supermarkets is from South America or California – at any time of the year.  Even during the height of the local apple season, we find Washington apples on the shelves.  Now, add to that that it is winter.  It would appear to be a lost cause.

But I found some things.  You just have to look carefully.

The Shaw’s I stopped at last week is a smaller one in Nashua, but fresh produce section has a good variety of items from all around the country and beyond.  The first thing that greets you upon entering is the fruit section.  In the winter, we have a lot of oranges and grapes and there are always apples, but nothing local.  Not even the apples.  I will never understand why local supermarkets don’t take advantage of the miles of surrounding apple farms here.  Once in a while, I’ll see local apples in the supermarket during the very height of apple season, but there’s no reason to not sell them through winter.  You can go to any one of these apple farms in the winter and find excellent apples.

Moving on, we hit the salad greens, tomatoes, and other cold-eating vegetables.  No local greens – another surprise, considering that they are often grown year-round indoors – but they did have something I never expected: tomatoes.  Big, beautiful Ugli Ripe heirloom tomatoes from Maine’s Backyard Farms sat on the shelf next to basic varieties shipped from as far away as Mexico. Turn the corner and I also found 10oz boxes of Cocktail Tomatoes on the vine from Backyard Farms.  These tomatoes are grown year-round indoors and distributed only as far as day’s drive.

Ugli Ripe Tomatoes from Backyard Farms at Shaw's
Ugli Ripe Tomatoes from Backyard Farms at Shaw’s

Next to the tomatoes, I found packages of Broccoli and Mung Bean sprouts and Pea shoots from Jonathan’s Organic Sprouts in Rochester, MA.

Broccoli Sprouts and Pea Shoots from Jonathan's Organic Sprouts at Shaw's
Broccoli Sprouts and Pea Shoots from Jonathan’s Organic Sprouts at Shaw’s

There were no local selections among the cooking greens and herbs, but there were a few choices within the root vegetable section.  Maine potatoes are an easy find in any supermarket and Shaw’s has some bagged from Fresh From the Start – a New York state distributor.  There is no indication where in Maine the potatoes come from and since they might travel from Maine to Long Island and back, one might question how local that ends up being.  I set my boundaries to the ends of New England, but since New York State is just beyond that, I guess I’ll take it.

They also had bagged Sugar Mountain Parsnips from Manheim Farm in Whatley, MA.  Manheim is a larger farm along the Connecticut River that sells their produce wholesale only.

Bags of Maine Potatoes and Sugar Mountain Parsnips from Mass.
Bags of Maine Potatoes and Sugar Mountain Parsnips from Mass.

The last item I found was a bag of Morning Kiss Organic Onions in the organic section.  These onions are distributed by Gold Bell of Arrow Farms in Chelsea, MA.  Keep in in mind, however, that it is a distribution center.  Arrow Farms makes no claims on its website that its produce is sourced locally, so the onions could have actually been grown anywhere.

All-in-all, this was not a bad excursion.  I enjoyed a nice plate of sliced tomatoes and some roasted potatoes and parsnips with dinner.  I didn’t expect an abundance of local produce, but I found enough to get by and that’s what counts.  You can find local food in the off-season.  You just need to read labels and stickers and be persistent.

Sliced Ugli ripe Tomatoes with oil, vinegar and garlic
Sliced Ugli Ripe Tomatoes with oil, vinegar and garlic

Nashua Rail Trail Community Garden Plots available for 2015

Just a quick note to pass on that you can get your application for a plot in the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail Community Garden for 2015 by following this link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1iBCOAIjJ-jGYqa99he69IpPs86DEUMYYkv8cXySVmsw/viewform

The Rail Trail gardens are located along the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail just west of Pine Street, between Everett Street and Stevens Ave and cost $35 for an 8×4 raised bed with water.