Local Food, All Year Long

photo by Drew Piester
photo by Drew Piester

With the changing seasons, the warm, humid weather of summer that screams farmers markets, sweet corn, peaches and tomatoes shifts into colder months and shorter days. All summer, week by week, students, young professionals, families and community members have been attending the Columbia Farmers Market to buy their favorite Missouri-grown products, visit with friends, and build relationships with local farmers and producers.

As winter comes, our fresh salads turn to Crock Pots slowly cooking creamy squash and potato soups, and root vegetable medleys roasting in our ovens. Although our diet changes, our relationships with farmers and local food don’t have to. Many of our favorite farmers whose products we savor during the summer season are busy at work through fall and winter tending high-tunnels and hoop houses allowing them heat to extend their growing season. Others continue tending livestock, aging cheese, canning, dehydrating and baking for market. Preparations for next year’s growing season are also underway with farmers planting garlic, putting beds to rest, and purchasing seeds. Columbia Farmers Market vendor, Thoenen Produce, recently posted on Facebook that they are putting the finishing touches on a new greenhouse where they will be starting tomatoes mid-November.

Local products continue to be available in a variety of different locations throughout the winter. The Columbia Farmers Market offers a weekly Winter Market inside Parkade Center on Saturday mornings. Fall favorites such as Brussel sprouts, broccoli, Swiss chard and cabbage referred to as Cold Crops, plus others like spinach, lettuce, winter squashes and sweet potatoes prefer the milder temperature of fall and early winter. These products are just beginning to arrive at the farmers market. This year the Columbia Farmers Market will also host a special Thanksgiving Market on Tuesday, Nov. 22nd  from 3-6 p.m. When asked about the variety of local products available during fall and winter, Columbia Farmers Market staff member Laurel Goodman remarked, “People are often surprised by how many local options are available during the winter months. They expect meat, cheese and baked and canned goods, and are ecstatic when they find those items as well as fresh greens and a wide variety of vegetables.”

When you tire of cooking at home and have reached the tipping point of cabin-fever, visit one of the restaurants around Columbia who are working closely with local farmers and producers to create tantalizing dishes with high-quality products. Check out the seasonal offerings of Main Squeeze, Barred Owl Butcher and Table, The Wine Cellar and Bistro, and Sycamore for a delicious, locally-sourced meal.

Winter is the season to spend time with friends, family and good food. Keep your farmers close this winter and continue to create a place for local food at your table.

For more information about the Columbia Farmers Market, the Winter Market, or the farm-to-table movement in mid-Missouri, please visit columbiafarmersmarket.org or call 573-823-6889.