It’s Saturday morning at Asheville City Market. Music wafts through the hallway of the Masonic Temple as customers chat with farmers and do their shopping for the week.
All around the room, farmers stand behind tables full of eggs, meat, cheese, and plenty of winter vegetables. You might think winter would be a slower season for farmers, but some say it’s even more profitable to sell their food during the winter.
“At this time of year if you have something green it just flies off the shelf,” says Ryan Clark Fiddler’s Green Farm. “We’re in the Southeast, so it’s possible without too much extra effort to grow things into and through the winter, so we go for it.”
Missy Huger from Jake’s Farm in Candler stands behind a table of arugula, kale, and collards. She says some customers are even more excited about produce during the wintertime. How does she feel about all the people crowded around her table?
“I’m thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. It was interesting because last week we had a big line out the front door and we were sold out by 10 minutes past nine. So it’s 25 past nine now, and we’ll have enough until 10:30 I reckon, which is good, it’s great. We like the winter market. Much better to sell in the winter than the summer, from our point of view. There’s not as many of us doing this sort of thing in the wintertime. We have greenhouses and not a lot of people do, so that makes a difference,” she says.
Mike McCreary has been the Asheville City Market manager for the past 10 years. He says he’s seen more customer demand at farmers markets since the early days. “I think that’s part of the explanation of why winter markets have come into being is folks don’t stop eating, and they don’t stop wanting fresh produce. If there are customers and a place where folks can go to buy, then the farmers will grow it,” he says.
Market assistant Trish Tripp says some produce even tastes better during winter. “The winter greens are all so much sweeter now because once that frost hits them the flavor profile of winter greens just jumps up a ton. It’s sweeter, deeper, and good.”
Judging from the big crowd this morning, customers are eager to bring home this winter bounty. Farmers markets have an amazing array of food during the winter like eggs, meat, cheese, hot sauce, and honey. Some markets have coffee and baked goods for customers to savor as they do their weekly shopping.
Market manager Mike McCreary says it’s the dedication of customers that helps the winter market thrive. “I think that that’s really the driving force of the success of the market is folks who yearn for, long for, can’t do without their local produce.”
Find winter farmers markets in your area at www.appalachiangrown.org