Tomato season has come and gone and summer squash is a distant memory, but local food thrives all year long in the Southern Appalachians. There are many vegetables that stay fresh during the winter months—including giant kohlrabi and other root vegetables that can be stored until early spring, and spinach varieties that can grow in hoop houses nearly all winter.
Many communities host farmers markets throughout the year, including Asheville and several rural mountain towns where demand is high. Even if your area doesn’t have a winter market, there are ways to support local food and farms throughout the year.
Maintaining relationships with farmers during the winter is a way to stay engaged with the community year-round. So before the regular market season ends, ask farmers where to find their products during the winter. Many farms supply local grocery stores and co-ops with meats, cheeses, and other specialty products.
Asking restaurants which local foods they use is another way to stay connected. Several area restaurants go out of their way to include locally-grown greens, apples, and spinach in their winter menus. Talking to restaurants and grocers about local food demonstrates consumer demand and encourages them to seek out local products.
It’s also not too early to start thinking about CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture. In fact, a growing number of farms and dairies offer home delivery throughout the winter. And in March, ASAP hosts a CSA fair where people can sign up for weekly CSA boxes and support farmers as they get ready for the upcoming growing season.
Information about year-round CSAs and winter farmers markets can be found at asapconnections.org