by Sara Zoë
This Saturday will be the Seacoast area of New Hampshire and southern Maine's first Holiday Farmers' Market. Almost 30 farmers and food producers will be there, selling everything from fresh greens to turkeys to venison to bread, with a whole lot of winter vegetables for good measure. We'll have music and students of the McIntosh Atlantic Culinary Academy will be doing cooking demonstrations of over 13 different local products throughout the 9am - 2pm market. Best of all for me, I will be able to stock up not only for my 100-mile Thanksgiving, but also for the next month, until our second Holiday Market takes place on December 22nd.
The seeds were sown a year ago. The seasonal markets end at the end of October, and I was in pretty much the same boat as everyone else - my access to local food had just gotten much more challenging, and more limited. But last year I was able to see that there is still plenty of food to be had - it was just hiding out on individual farms, and required phone calls to arrange shopping excursions into the barn, where wonderful food was being stored. I can do this, and I will again because it is worth it to me and I enjoy visiting farms, but it is certainly not as conducive to eating locally as a farmers' market, where you still get to buy directly from the farmer but all your trips are condensed into one.
I watched as our local Slow Food Convivium
embraced the 100-mile Thanksgiving in a big and wonderful way (that's
their picture on the 100-mile Thanksgiving site!), and then as folks wanted to make it happen in their own homes, understanding how synergistic eating locally in New England for Thanksgiving is.
And so I started talking to folks about holding farmers' markets beyond the season. The idea of holding two markets to coincide with our big fall and winter feasts was a natural, and inspired by the 100-mile Thanksgiving. I knew it would also be easier for vegetable growers to extend their seasons by a month or two and store produce for that time, versus trying to go for an all out winter market, though we all hope to move in that direction someday.
Everyone I talked to loved the idea - growers, consumers, activists alike. So I began asking questions. Where could we hold it? Indoors is key for New England. Easy to get to, plenty of parking, no charge for the space, and available for our dates were additional factors. After months of looking for the right space, the McIntosh Atlantic Culinary Academy stepped forward eagerly. I will never forget my first email response from Jim Gallivan, executive director. I had simply proposed the rough concept. His reply was, "yes, let's do it. When can we meet?"
From there it's been a rolling stone - forms went out, growers were recruited. The response has been wonderful. Rather than doubting the ability of a non-farmer to execute this opportunity, the growers have been happy to have someone orchestrate, publicize, and generally make it happen.
It hasn't been all milk and honey - I have had to learn a lot about regulations the hard way, and about the distinctive nature of farmers' markets in different states and for different products. But I just asked a lot of questions, made a lot of phone calls, and above all, gratefully accepted every offer of help that came my way.
It's been one of those Margaret Mead moments, when you realize no one is going to come up to you in the street and grant you permission to act. No one is in charge of the world, and no one is going to tell you you can't. So if we want to make things happen, if we want to change the equation of how food gets distributed, and how our farmers are supported, and how our meat is raised, we can.
your table with local food! Over 25 vendors with be at the Holiday
Farmers' Markets, at the McIntosh Atlantic Culinary Academy at 181
Silver Street in Dover NH (exit 8e off the Spaulding Turnpike) from 9am
- 2pm on Saturday November 17th and Saturday December 22nd. Sponsored
by McIntosh Atlantic Culinary Academy and Seacoast Eat Local. For more
information, visit www.seacoasteatlocal.org