Fresh produce buyers will now be able to purchase this season’s best area fruits and vegetables at southern Illinois’ first winter farmers market.
The market will begin Dec. 1 and will be held every Saturday through March 23, excluding Dec. 29, at Thomas School in Carbondale.
Sarah Heyer, executive director of Keep Carbondale Beautiful, said she and Elissa Johnson, a produce buyer and employee at the Neighborhood Co-op in Carbondale, began working on the winter market’s development in June.
“The produce growers always focused on growing the right products for each season,” she said. “We want people to continue healthy eating habits throughout the entire year, not just the summer months.”
Heyer said the available produce will include kale, greens, turnips, carrots and much more.
She said the market’s goals are to get people to buy locally, become aware of available area products, shorten the connection between farmer and buyer and draw community members together.
“When we buy products from the store, we never really know whose food we’re purchasing,” Heyer said. “This will give people a chance to get to know many of the local farmers.”
Johnson said while there are winter farmers markets in Chicago and St. Louis areas, this is southern Illinois’ first.
“This winter market is thanks to the farmers who have knowledge of growing produce in the winter whether it be growing in a greenhouse, indoor or outdoor farming,” she said.
Johnson said though the market begins next Saturday, the organizers would like to hear from any farmer who has fresh produce during the months the market is open.
“Every farmer knows that you can’t make bets on the weather,” she said. “If at any point they grow seasonal produce, they are more than welcome to come and solidify a spot.”
Heyer said she and Johnson created a blog to keep buyers updated on the market’s progress and provide an agenda for visitors of which vendors will attend on which days and what produce they will sell. The blog can be found at carbondalewintermarket.blogspot.com
Carbondale resident Jonathon Baker said he has shopped at farmers markets and the Neighborhood Co-op for the past five years, and he and his wife shop at the farmers market every Saturday during summer and fall months.
Baker said the two usually make trips to St. Louis to shop at winter farmers markets, so he is excited to stay in Carbondale and shop this year.
“We’re excited to be able to shop locally this year and support our own farmers,” he said. “I hope this will be the beginning of a yearly winter market because we need it.”
Baker said while he’s grateful for the opportunity to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the Neighborhood Co-op and local grocery stores, there is no comparison when produce is purchased directly from the farmer and and knowing the produce is fresh.
The first winter farmers market will be held at Attucks Park on North Wall Street, but it will be set up in Thomas School’s cafeteria every following Saturday.
Heyer said Carbondale Elementary School District 95 has been encouraging students to eat healthier, which would include eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, so she thinks holding the market inside the school is a perfect location.