Winter Farmers’ Markets: An Oasis of Community-Based Learning

Not Only Buying Local, But Learning Local

Is it cruel to show a farmers market in Amherst during the summer? Well the Amherst & Northampton Winter Farmers’ Markets are  learning oasis of in the winter months, reminding us of lush seasons on the horizon.

Winter farmers’ markets provide a fresh and colorful oasis during the winter months, reminding us that despite the blustery, snow drift-covered fields that surround us, farm-fresh foods of all kinds are still available. Connecting to the local food chain year round is not only healthy for your body, your family, and your community, but it can be educational as well! Exposing children to the wide array of foods available from winter farmers’ markets can help them to recognize that there are many different methods for growing and producing food while connecting to where there food comes from.

AMHERST WINTER FARMERS’ MARKET

In addition to the natural opportunities for learning through observation and questioning while perusing farmers’ displays, the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market offers a series of workshops throughout the winter market season that share useful information, advice, skills, resources, and tools to promote and support self-sufficiency. While the winter market’s season is well underway these days, there are still many upcoming workshops covering a wide range of topics. Lead by local farmers, gardeners, herbalists, and other skilled and knowledgeable folks, each workshop is held from 12-1pm in the market’s Professional Development Center.

Upcoming workshop topics at the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market  include everything from mycology to personal care products and medicine. While some workshops are centered around practices that are season-specific and therefore cannot be put into practice for a few months (home mushroom gardening and growing tomatoes, for example), others address topics that can be tackled anytime, no matter the season. Exploring topics such as everyday herb use, reducing a family’s carbon footprint, food as medicine, and the chemistry of hygiene products can help families to learn information and skills that can be immediately and directly applied to their lives.

More information about workshops can be obtained by contacting Becky at rvread12@comcast.net. The Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market welcomes suggestions and requests for upcoming workshops, and also welcomes market-goers to offer up their own expertise in a particular skill or subject for future offerings. The market is held on Saturdays from 12noon-2pm at Amherst Regional Middle School, located at 170 Chestnut Street.

NORTHAMPTON WINTER FARMERS’ MARKET

Other winter farmers’ markets that offer learning opportunities include the Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market. This Saturday market features food and artisan vendors, along with music and occasional special events.  On Saturday, February 28th, a Seed Swap will take place, giving participants the opportunity to trade seeds while meeting and learning from local farmers and gardeners.  By learning to save seeds, children can take an active role in helping beautiful, delicious, and fascinating varieties of fruits and vegetables stick around – in our gardens, on our plates, and in our bellies – for generations to come. And in doing so, they’ll get lots of solid hands-on experience with gardening, plant anatomy, and proper seed (and perhaps food) preservation techniques.

The Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday through April 18th from 9am-2pm at the Smith Vocational, 80 Locust Street, Northampton, MA.

[Photo credit: (cc) Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism]

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