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Seasonal Transitions: Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market

The city of Boston has over 20 outdoor farmers markets, but as winter approaches nearly all of those markets will be closed by the first week of November. Although it may be a disappointment to customers who frequent the markets regularly, they won’t have to say goodbye just yet. Instead of outdoors markets, a number of winter indoor markets will be opening over the next couple of months.

One of the first markets to open is Brookline Winter Farmers Market. The market is open every Sunday starting from November until the middle of June. It is located in a building called The Arcade in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. The building is a long indoor alley that stretches to opposite end of the building. Roughly 13 or so vendors line up on either side of the walkway sell fresh produce and local goods.

The woman behind this whole operation is Linda Plazonja, 55. Plazonja is the owner of the market and is a self-proclaimed “food sherpa”, or culinary anthropologist.   Plazonja hopes the market will serve as a place for customers to become connected and educated about the farmers and local vendors at the market. She hopes that the atmosphere of the market will “remind [customers] about their cultural traditions in artisan productions.”

Two years ago Plazonja was invited by the City of Brookline to participate in a Climate Week event promoting sustainability. At this event Plazonja and her team created a farmers market that was received with great success. As a result of the positive feedback to the test market, Plazonja strived to create an indoor farmer’s market that would complement the twenty weeks of outdoor market. The market opened last year and Plazonja has seen great success in such a short frame of time.

In comparison to outdoor markets, the Brookline Farmers Market is significantly smaller and does not have as wide of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The summer and fall outdoor markets run for a shorter amount of time compared to the winter market. However, the summer and fall markets take place during the most bountiful harvest times of the year. This makes a significant difference in terms of the yield. The majority of produce in these markets is picked at its peak time and freshness. Many of the produce at the winter market are at the end of its growing season and do not have these same qualities. This makes providing for the consumers a little more challenging for some vendors at the winter market.

Some vendors have worked in cooperation with the cold weather and started offering seasonal items such as soups and sauces incorporating winter vegetables such as winter squash and root vegetables. Some vendors such as Sumira’s Homemade, a business specialized in making Middle Eastern hummus and spreads, have also branched out and expanded their selling points to brick and mortar stores such as the Whole Foods Market.

During the winter, farmers face the challenge of growing produce in cold temperatures. As a result of the smaller yields margins, farmers face lower income during the winter months. Despite the challenge, some farms have used the cold season to their advantage. One such farm is Silverbrook Farm. This farm, which has been in existence since 1690, utilizes greenhouse methods to grow produce in the wintertime. For some types of produce such as tomatoes, typically seen in the height of the summer, Silverbrook Farm has been able to continue tomato production using greenhouse methods.

“We’re able to extend the growing season until about mid-November. It’s funny I actually harvested these tomatoes this morning,” said Andrew Thornhill, 25. Thornhill is the Green House Manager of Silverbrook Farms and is responsible for operation the sixteen greenhouses.

In addition to the greenhouse methods, Silverbrooke Farms continues their CSA program during the winter season. This “community supported agriculture” program allows customers to continue receiving boxes of fresh produce every week. By having this option available, customers of Silverbrooke Farms and of the winter market are able to maintain their relationship with their farmers.

Over the past couple years, more and more people have been frequenting the markets and have begun building good relationships between the farmers, vendors and the community. More people have begun to realize the importance of eating foods that are fresh and are produced locally.

More winter markets will open in the next couple months in Massachusetts. Plazonja hopes that her market in Brookline, along with other winter markets, will provide an opportunity for people to get together and support local craftsmen and artisans.

According to Plazonja,“This is about supporting your community and being a part of your community.”

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