Local Hero Profile: Winter Farmers’ Market at the Hampshire Mall
Local Hero Profile by Sarah Lucia, CISA’s TerraCorp Service Member
Published in CISA’s January 2021 enewsletter
When the ground freezes and snow flies through the air, a sense of wellbeing and connection keeps us grounded and thriving. The Winter Farmers’ Market at the Hampshire Mall provides fresh and local food, community, and a colorful diversion from the grey winter, even in the midst of a pandemic. Hearty meals and fresh vegetables garner a new kind of appreciation as we pause to consider the planning and preparation needed to provide food in the winter. Cathleen O’Keefe, the market manager of the Winter Farmers’ Market, says, “This food we’re selling took a lot of work, especially this year, to be saved and preserved for the community. It is a market that everyone can come to and connect to the local community in a safe way.”
The vendors’ stands are packed with beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, apples, frozen meats, and winter greens like Swiss chard and kale. Cathleen recommends we “get really comfortable” with preparing and eating winter vegetables as we enjoy the hard work that went into growing our food. Winter is the perfect time to get creative, try new recipes, and enjoy warm, home-cooked dishes at the end of the day. The market also provides some special treats to liven up your table: Berkshire Mountain Bakery brings fresh-baked sourdough, baked goods, and breads to complement the vegetables, and artisan vendors add a pop of color and fun with their displays of woodworking, clothing, and even goat’s milk soaps. Eggs, cheeses, grass-fed beef, pork, and chicken come from Chase Hill Farm and Pitchfork Farm, and honey and maple syrup are available at multiple vendors to sweeten the deal. Cathleen says the simplicity of winter produce makes this season a “time to slow down and have fewer things on our list, [like in the world]. Prioritize good food and good people!”
The Winter Farmers’ Market provides an access point for locally grown food to all members of the surrounding communities. Located in the Hampshire Mall, this winter market is highly accessible as it is located on major bus lines, and it is frequented by casual passersbys in the mall and by dedicated patrons alike. For community members receiving SNAP, vendorsrovide the perfect opportunity to use HIP benefits for free fruits and vegetables. The HIP program automatically loads an extra $40 to $80 monthly onto every SNAP recipient’s EBT card. This extra money can be spent on fruits and vegetables at many of the vendors at this market, such as Apex Orchards, Atlas Farm, and Red Fire Farm. The market also processes SNAP and HIP on behalf of the vendors, so HIP can be used on any fruits and vegetables available. HIP benefits can only be used at authorized farmers’ markets and farm stands, which are limited during the winter, making this farmers’ market a valuable spot for SNAP customers to maximize their dollars.
As a shopper, expect a few changes this year due to COVID-19 to protect your safety. The Market is now in a new location within the mall – look for the market in the former Autobahn Suite in the center of the mall, near the food court. The market is expansive, ten-times the size of the old location in the Target hallway, with wide pathways which provide a safe and calm shopping experience and ample space between vendors and fellow shoppers. Masks are required, and hand sanitizer is provided. Many vendors also now offer pre-ordering as an additional convenience. A festive atmosphere persists despite these precautions: vendors are welcoming and delighted to share their produce with customers.
The reward for shopping for local, fresh produce is instantaneous. Farmers and vendors are eager to please, and back home, the tasty results pay off. Those deep, earthy flavors bring comfort and warmth to your table, and knowing you supported local, sustainable agriculture is a bonus. People are more eager than ever for a touch of community and cheer this winter, and the Winter Farmers’ Market at the Hampshire Mall is the perfect location to find both! The market is open on Saturdays from 10am until 2pm, every single week until March 13th. You can find more details about the market, including location, here and a complete and updated list of vendors, along with pre-order information, is on their website.