Local buying in the off season
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
So maybe you've made a resolve to incorporate more local foods into your diet and, as with most resolutions, you've decided to put your plan off until a later date. Makes sense in this case. Local tomatoes, greens, corn, and other produce are just a fond memory of summer at this point. However, there are still plenty of ways to get on board with the buy local philosophy or extend your current commitment into the fall and beyond.
Not only can you plan to eat healthier now, but local farmers need all the support they can get once their crops have dwindled, along with their customer base. Here are some suggestions on buying local during the "other" three seasons.
There is still produce from local farms to be found, in the form of some of the heartier vegetables and herbs, and some things will continue to grow, depending on weather conditions, through the end of the year.
Simon Athearn, production manager for Morning Glory Farm, notes that they are still in the pre-frost market. Thanks to a number of unheated greenhouses, the farm stand has in stock their own peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, eggplants, lettuce, scallions, radishes, and herbs. After frost sets in, the winter veggies — turnips, kale, chard, and spinach — will still be going strong. The farm also has a stock of vegetables that were gathered and stored earlier, including potatoes, onions, and seven varieties of winter squashes and pumpkins. The stand will close on January 1, though they will still offer their own eggs and a few of the hardier veggies all winter from a self-serve refrigerator on the porch.
The FARM Institute (TFI) also has greenhouses and is committed to stretching their growing season as long as possible.
"We got the greenhouses from a grant a couple years ago so we could have three-season agriculture here on the Vineyard," said Chrissy Kinsman, marketing and development director. "We wanted to be able to provide some sort of produce year-round." Although the off-season crops are still a bit of an experiment, TFI hopes to be able to provide the following: beets, spinach, lettuce, radicchio, leeks, scallions, radishes, chard, tatsoi (an Asian leafy green), and hopefully peas.
Eden Market, in operation for more than 25 years, is a hub for local produce and goods in the summer, but currently, more so for fall produce such as apples, pears, and squash. Also, find fall harvest decorations, including the Pumpkin Pyramid, at the State Road, Vineyard Haven store.
Blackwater Farm's self-service stand stays open all year and right now they have lettuce, green beans, radishes, carrots, potatoes, kale, collards, parsley, and greens with some crops still available until around Thanksgiving, with carrots and beets holding out until the ground freezes. After that, the Lambert's Cove, West Tisbury stand will be open for eggs and meat.
Meat and eggs
TFI is just one of a number of local farms that offer meat from their livestock for sale, though mostly the meat available here is sold frozen. They sell beef roasts and steaks, ground beef, stew meat, pork chops and sausages, lamb legs and sausage, as well as bones and other soup stock products. They also sell chickens and will have turkeys in November. Ms. Kinsman notes that for every 10 chickens TFI sells, they donate one to the Island Food Pantry. A winter meat CSA provides members with 10-pounds of a variety of meats once a month.
Along with their wool and wool products, The Allen Farm in Chilmark sells grass-fed lamb in the form of chops, shanks, stew meat, in addition to pork. The shop is open until Christmas and after that you can call the farm (508-645-9064) to order meat at any time.
Native Earth Teaching Farm on North Road in Chilmark sells frozen pork products year-round, as well as roasting pigs.
Cleveland Farm sells pasture-raised chicken (fresh or frozen) and frozen pork products, including bacon. You can order by calling Richard Andre at 774-563-8640. Both of the latter two farms will also have turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Blackwater Farm stocks eggs and frozen meat year-round at their farm stand. They sell sausage, pork chops, roasts, and bacon (not frozen). At times, they also have beef: hamburger, steak roast, and stew meat.
Nip 'n Tuck Farm in West Tisbury carries eggs and frozen beef and pork throughout the year, and Morning Glory has a variety of frozen meats and sometimes fresh chickens for retail.
Local dairy is available at Mermaid Farm and The Grey Barn and Farm, both in Chilmark. Mermaid sells raw milk (unpasteurized and unprocessed), yogurt, and feta cheese, all from their small herd of cows.
The Grey Barn sells raw and pasteurized milk, and plans on selling cheese, pork, beef, and veal by next year.
Both Mermaid and Grey Barn products are available at Cronig's. Mermaid goods are also found at Morning Glory, though raw milk is only sold at the farms.
Where to shop local
Cronig's Market and the Tisbury Farm Market, both in Vineyard Haven, both have a commitment to sell as many products from local farms as possible.
"It's always been the focus here that we will accommodate anyone who walks in and asks if we want to sell," says Steve Harris, manager of the Tisbury Farm Market. "What we can't get on the Island we try to get from Massachusetts, and if we can't get it from the state, we try to get it from New England. We're very supportive of farmers. We send all our leftovers for compost or pigs and bruised apples to horses. We donate as much as possible to keep the full circle going." Among other things, Tisbury Farm Market sells local duck and chicken eggs, and is in the beginning stages of carrying more Island meat.
Cronig's Market has a large range of local products. "One of the things I see emerging more is farmers extending their seasons with greens," says manager Sarah McKay, who is also involved with Island Grown Initiative. "Any opportunity that they have to sell their product in the off-season is much appreciated. It's not easy for farmers to make it through the winter here." She adds, "Both for the consumer and for the farmers who are growing things, it's a win/win situation...There have been more opportunities for us to only buy local. We just keep seeing that window opening up each year."
Perhaps that sentiment is best reflected in the fact that the Winter West Tisbury Farmers Market is now in operation for the third year in a row. Last Saturday, Oct. 22, the first market for the season was held at the new Ag Hall in West Tisbury. There will be four more on November 5 and 19, December 3 and 17, from 10 am to 1 pm.