It’s Winter. Let’s Go to the Farmers’ Market!

Modified: February 06, 2023 | Story by Colleen Creamer

This article originally appeared here

In cities like Detroit and Philadelphia, markets have become year-round destinations, offering classes, crafts and music, as well as a surprising array of fresh produce.

On a recent Saturday morning at Eastern Market in Detroit, busking musicians filled the air with jazz as vendors finished setting up for the day’s traffic. Shoppers streamed in, sizing up winter produce, relishes and chutneys, fresh cuts of beef and more.

Though farmers’ markets are usually associated with warm months and lush fruits and vegetables, Eastern Market and others like it across the country are becoming cold-weather travel destinations as they add artisanal goods, entertainment and indoor experiences like the cooking classes the Detroit market has sometimes offered during the cold months.

Some, like the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles, the Detroit market and the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, have been in business for so long that shopping, restaurant and entertainment neighborhoods have cropped up around them, creating urban ecosystems worthy of winter weekend getaways.

“There is now a whole destination associated with the markets themselves, and often their events are unique to the communities they serve,” said Ben Feldman, the executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition, a nonprofit organization for markets across the United States. Take, for example, the Commissioner’s Cup BBQ Cook-Off and Festival at the South Carolina State Farmers Market, which happens each March in ‌Columbia, or Milwaukee Public Market’s chili-and-beer-tasting event that kicks off annually in February.

Mr. Feldman added that while the focus of farmers’ markets is on what’s in season, purveyors are extending the peak of the season by creating baked goods, jams and other products from crops they’ve grown, while others are relying on greenhouses or semicircular “hoop” houses to bring more produce to market in winter. The revenue, Mr. Feldman said, is beneficial to the immediate community.

For cities in warmer climates, staying open in the winter is easy. California, for instance, has scores of year-round markets. Those in colder cities ‌often have pavilions to buffer against the cold. The Nashville market, for example, has a Market House, where shoppers will find prepped-food options and cafes, including a wine-tasting room.

With 225 vendors, Eastern Market in Detroit is a central shopping hub for the city’s restaurateurs and is the anchor for a thriving 43-acre market district nearby. Credit…Detroit Eastern Market

Eastern Market, Detroit

One of the oldest and largest public markets in the United States, the sprawling Eastern Market is a central shopping hub for the city’s restaurateurs, and the site of the largest potted flower market in the United States.

This mammoth market district, just north of the city’s downtown, has 43 acres of restaurants, art galleries, entertainment, specialty shops and cafes. The market dates to 1841, when early Michiganders purchased hay and wood at the site. It even has its own welcome center. There are 225 vendors at the Saturday year-round market, and the Gratiot Central Meat Market, a meat-and-seafood store on Gratiot Avenue, has 12 vendors who operate throughout the year, from Monday through Saturday.

Thomas Bedway, whose family has been a presence at the Gratiot market since the 1960s, said that by using local butchers, consumers have a better understanding of what they are getting, when the meat was cut and how to prepare it.

The churchlike brick entrance to Eastern Market in Detroit. An estimated 45,000 visitors flow through its arches every Saturday. Credit…Detroit Eastern Market

“We do have a large selection of fresh cut meat throughout the year, and we know where it comes from,” Mr. Bedway said. “You can come in here and give me your budget and what you want, and we can cut to order. We can also custom blend.”

The market’s churchlike, arched brick entrance, through which an estimated 45,000 visitors flow each Saturday to find produce, meat, baked goods, jams, honey, cheeses, spices, plants and flowers, is unmissable.

The Rev. Garrett Mostowski, who, along with his wife, the Rev. Sarah Logemann, leads the congregation at the Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit, said even in early December, the last time he was there, the market was an immersive Detroit experience.

“One of the guys at the market was selling hot sauces and marinades, and he was pulling kids to the side and doing tastings with them,” Reverend Mostowski said. “I feel like that’s a really cool interaction.”

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