As New England ushers in winter, the Dorchester Community Food Co-op is gearing up for its second annual Winter Farmers’ Market starting January 6. Running every Sunday through March 24 from noon until 4p.m. in the Codman Square Great Hall, the Farmers’ Market will offer fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits, meats, breads, cheeses and specialty foods.
Each week, 11 of 12 rotating vendors will be featured at the Market, offering residents an alternative to big chain grocery stores. The Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN), the Codman Square and Bowdoin Street Health Centers, Codman Academy and other local organizations will sponsor themed weeks. In addition to its own featured space at the Market, each sponsor also staffs and sets up that day, bringing in extra volunteers to help all vendors involved.
Dorchester Community Food Co-op Market Manager Jennie Msall is proud of the event’s inaugural run last year.
“The Winter Farmers’ Market was kind of our first endeavor of a food access project in Dorchester by the Food Co-op and I think we felt that it was hugely successful,” she said. “It was a sustainable market that drew a lot of customers, but also [the Food Co-op’s] larger goal is to really create a community base for Dorchester residents to come together around food and to come together from different neighborhoods.”
Returning vendors include produce sellers Oakdale Farm of Rehoboth and Silverbrook Farm of Dartmouth, Foxboro Cheese, Stillman’s Farm of Central Mass., Stir It Up Cuisine of Weymouth, known for its hot pepper jelly, and Boston-based distributor Red’s Best Seafood. The Co-op also anticipates a return programming of entertainment, performances and workshops for consumers.
Lilac Hedge, Samira’s Homemade and Vision’s Sown, An Ancient Baking Company make up some of the fresh new faces this year. Lilac Hedge of Berlin will offer goat meat, a new and popular offering while Belmont-based Samira’s will stir up some homegrown hummus. Vision’s Sown, whose cookies are now on sale at Marshall’s Fenway Farmstand, uses whole grains and plant-based ingredients to produce rich, healthy all-natural goodies.
Though food is the main attraction at the Farmers’ Market, Msall believes that there was something special in the making of the community first.
“It was more than just a place where people were coming to buy their food for the week - it was also a place where people could come to have fun and get to know each other.”
“Affordability of farmers’ markets is an issue that comes up for all farmers’ markets everywhere,” Msall said. By making sure that people are aware that they can use the Bounty Bucks program and by offering markdowns on some items, the Co-op reinforces its goal of affordability and accessibility to all Dorchester residents. Last year, Bounty Bucks sales topped $3,000.
“We want the Co-op to be accessible to all residents of Dorchester regardless of their income,” Msall added. For more information, visit dotcommcoop.wordpress.com.