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Farmers markets boom all winter long in Vermont

Vermonts farmers markets are not only a popular local food source in the summerthey are becoming a popular place for winter shopping, too. This winter, seven farmers markets will open their doors during the winter months. Full-season markets will take place in Brattleboro, Chelsea, Dorset, Montpelier, Norwich and Rutland. Other towns, including Bennington, Bellows Falls, and Waitsfield, hold special holiday markets in November and December. Although the new winter markets are a minority among the states 55-60 summertime markets, they are an important part of Vermonts future. Overall, the options for selling local foods in winter are increasing. These options extend beyond the farmers markets to include restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, food co-operatives, and Community Supported Agriculture. Many people associate local foods just with the summer growing season. However, staple foods are available in most months of the year. Year-round products include maple syrup, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, root crops, grains, and apples. Vermonts strong specialty food industry also flourishes in every season. The abundance of the Vermont harvest is legendary in the summer. Now the freshness of Vermont products and produce can be found year-round at several winter markets, remarks Anson Tebbetts, Deputy Secretary at the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. It isnt only the farmers and other food producers who benefit from extended market months. Many towns use their markets as a draw into downtown, creating a social event and larger local shopping experience. Robert McBride, Bellows Falls Downtown Development Executive Director, observes that "The [summer] Farmers Market provides the opportunity to buy quality product, locally grown, and to socialize on a weekly basis. Its always sad to see the season end in October. In the last couple of years hosting a few of the markets over the winter season has been really effective in getting us all together again. Jessie Schmidt, manager of the Montpelier farmers market, points out how holiday markets can provide a jumping-off point for a winter season plan. "The Capital City Farmers Market has had overwhelming community support of our annual Thanksgiving Farmers Market. We felt that we could carry this energy throughout the winter. The market also sees this as an opportunity for new farmers to fill a niche which is just being realized here in Vermont--winter production for winter consumption. Consumers are looking for local food year round, and we want to provide it for them!" Many of the winter markets are still accepting applications, particularly from agricultural vendors. To be put in touch with the appropriate market manager, please contact the Agency of Agriculture at 802 828-3828 or helen.jordan@state.vt.us . For a listing of wintertime markets, please visit http://www.vermontagriculture.com .

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