What is a farmers market?
You may have attended farmers markets before, or the farmers market might be a new experience. At a farmers market, the farmers who grow produce or raise animals for meat, eggs, or milk sell directly to customers. You can select from an exciting array of seasonal fruit, vegetables, herbs, and potted plants, as well as eggs, meat, seafood, cheese, honey, maple syrup, baked goods, and other foods produced locally. You will meet the people who are actually growing or producing the food you eat. Most farmers enjoy answering questions about their produce and about farming in general.

In addition to all of the food available for purchase, a farmers market is a community event that is enjoyable in its own right. You will see your friends and neighbors, and meet people who live in Winchester and neighboring communities. Local music and theater performers will perform each week, and eventually we hope that local craftspeople will demonstrate traditional, local crafts.

 

Why should I shop at a farmers market?

By shopping at a farmers market, you benefit your family and community, support local farmers and the local economy, and take action to preserve the environment.

You and your family will be eating produce that is at its peak of freshness, which means that it is at its most flavorful and nutritious. Most grocery store produce (even organic produce) is picked before peak ripeness and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to be sold. When crops are picked before the optimal time, they are not as flavorful and they lose nutritional value from the time they are picked while waiting to be shipped, stocked, and sold. At a farmers market, you will learn and think more about how your food is produced and become more in tune with the seasons. As a community event, a farmers market enhances a community by providing an opportunity for customers, farmers, performers, and craftspeople to gather and share their experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm in a fun, festive environment.

Local farmers depend upon the sale of their produce for their livelihood. By shopping at a farmers market, you are part of what makes it possible for local farmers to stay in business. When farmers can sell directly to customers, instead of through a chain of distributors, they can retain more of their profit. Many farmers who participate in farmers markets work on family farms that have been operating for generations and depend on local customers to survive. Local farms usually employ local workers and are an important part of a thriving local economy.

Shopping at a farmers market is a way to promote environmental sustainability. Local farms play an important role in preserving open space and healthy ecosystems. Because local farmers have a personal and economic investment in the land they farm, they follow organic and/or sustainable* practices to protect and enrich their farmland and to produce the most nutritious, safe, and flavorful produce possible. Local farms usually grow many different crops, and crop biodiversity is important for healthy natural ecosystems.

* Because the organic certification process is quite complex and expensive, some farmers who use organic methods do not get certified but still follow organic and sustainable methods.

 

How are prices set?

Farmers market pricing is often different from that in supermarkets or even other farmers markets in other parts of the country. Most organic produce in a supermarket comes from farms that are part of large commercial agro-businesses, which have economies of scale not possible for small, local farmers to maintain. Many organic farms that supply supermarkets are in areas of the world where land is much less expensive than it is in New England (especially Massachusetts), and where the growing season is much longer. The short and unpredictable growing season in New England means that a farmer must spend a lot of money and time to have produce ready as early and late in the season as possible.

Please feel free to ask a farmer how he or she specifically determines price. Veteran farmers market shoppers find that some farmers may be willing to negotiate, especially if customers plan to buy in larger quantities.

Is the produce organic?

In order to participate in the Winchester Farmers Market, farmers are required to follow organic or other sustainable practices, including integrated pest management (IPM). IPM is a farming practice that aims to control pests in an environmentally responsible manner that eliminates or reduces pesticide use, compared to standard conventional farming.

Because the organic certification process is quite complex, time consuming, and expensive, some farmers who use organic methods choose not to get certified. Also, some farmers certify specific crops as organic, even if their entire farm is not certified.

How can I support the farmers market?

The most important way that you can support the farmers market is to attend and buy from the participating farmers. Sustainable Winchester is a nonprofit organization that relies on grants, donations, and volunteers. The launching of the Winchester Farmers Market has been an entirely volunteer effort supported by a small grant from the New England Wind Fund. The Winchester Farmers Market gratefully accepts donations to support the many costs of successfully launching and running the market. Volunteers are also welcome to participate in the various planning and weekly activities necessary for running the market. Details are available on the Support page of the Market section.