BOONE — Locally grown produce can be difficult to find in the wintertime, but the High Country offers some sources for year-round local food.
Boone’s Winter Farmers’ Market, held Saturday mornings through April from 9 a.m. to noon, and the High Country Food Hub, open Thursday through Monday online, carry produce from summertime farmers’ market vendors. This region’s farmers love being able to provide consumers with local produce at any time of the year — even in the winter, said the organization Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture in a statement.
Most local vegetable growers make this possible through season extension, which expands growing opportunities by using controlled environments, such as greenhouses and hoop tunnels, for the plants to thrive. These season extension strategies can be more time consuming than a normal growing season, but local producers find it worthwhile if they can provide healthy, locally grown options to the community.
“It’s tough but totally possible,” Thomas Smith from Against the Grain Farm said in a statement. “We love providing produce for the community in the winter season.”
Season extension requires diversifying what is grown in the market garden. You’ll find hardier, more resilient vegetables being grown, such as winter varieties of lettuce, turnips, kale, collards, potatoes and radishes. Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture said that by eating in-season produce, you can expand your diet and try new things that may not even be found in the grocery store, as well as reducing your carbon footprint. The hope of local farmers is that their season extension strategies will lead to a more vibrant and longer-lasting local farmers’ market, providing a year-round income for their families.
Besides produce, Boone’s Winter Farmers’ Market and High Country Food Hub vendors carry other food items that are available year round, such as eggs, pasture-raised meats, honey, baked goods and goat cheese.
“Having access to fresh food options will help lead to a flourishing and self-sufficient farming community in the High Country,” Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture said. “The market is also a great place to interact with people in the broader community and support the local High Country food economy.”