Would you believe that Madison, in the heart of the frigid Midwest, has a year round farmer's market? It does seem improbable but around here, we love our farmer's market so much that we just couldn't bear for it to go away for 6 months. The winter market is now in it's 3rd year and it just keeps getting better. You can get cheese, cider, apples, whole-grain breads, seasoned salts, honey, maple syrup, wool, eggs and all manner of meats (bison anyone?). As the market becomes more successful, the farmer's have stepped up and now produce things you would not expect to buy locally when the landscape is blanketed with snow and summer is a distant memory.
The leader on this front is Snug Haven Farm and their spinach. They grow it all winter long in hoop houses (like greenhouses but you actually plant in the ground under them) that are generally unheated. Spinach actually improves in quality if it is allowed to freeze and thaw. It is thick and sweet and altogether irresistable. You can have your whimpy baby spinach, I'll take Snug Haven's winter spinach any day.(Please ignore the Cal-Organic box in the background. Everything at this market is locally grown or produced and the grower/producer is required to be there to sell it to you.)
This winter I was able to buy fresh arugula and salad mix most Saturdays and now we are barely into April but Blue Skies Berry Farm has an impressive array of fresh vegies available.The thing that makes this market special, though, is the breakfast. The market is held in the Madison Senior Center which is not the most attractive locale but it does have a full, cafeteria- style kitchen and for three years now The Friends of the Dane Counnty Farmer's Market have served breakfast at the market with the help of volunteers and donations of locally grown food to raise funds for their educational programs. Their mission is to "encourage children and adults to think about how the food they eat got to their fork." I think that would be part of my mission, too, if I had one! This week's breakfast was hearty and delicious, as always, and a bargain at $6.50!