Illinois Stewardship Alliance will host their eleventh annual Holiday Farmers Markets in Springfield this year on Saturday, Nov. 18 in the Expo Building and Saturday, Dec. 16 in the Orr Building on the State Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days.Illinois Stewardship Alliance will host their eleventh annual Holiday Farmers Markets in Springfield this year on Saturday, Nov. 18 in the Expo Building and Saturday, Dec. 16 in the Orr Building on the State Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days.
Market Manager Lindsay Keeney states, “Year after year we hear from farmers how important these markets are to them, and every year they keep growing. It’s one of those unique events that just kind of warms your heart. Shoppers get super delicious, wholesome foods to bring home to their families, farmers come away with a little extra cash for the holidays, and all of the money stays locally. At the end of the day, everyone’s smiling.”Although the late fall and winter seasons are generally believed to be a time where there is very little in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables, more and more farmers are using techniques like hoop houses and row covers to extend the growing season and make fresh produce available well into the winter months. Some crops are even especially well-suited to the cooler temperatures.
Springfield farmer Gus Jones of Small Axe Market Gardens notes that some of the best-tasting produce of the season can be found at holiday markets: “Cold weather turns starches into sugars, making crops like parsnips and Brussel sprouts tastier and sweeter in November and December.”
Janie Maxwell, executive director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association, notes that holiday and winter markets are part of a growing trend across Illinois. “The number keeps increasing,” says Maxwell. “In Kane County we now have three winter markets, up from zero just a couple of years ago. There is demand for fresh products all winter long.”
“We estimate that about 1,000 people attend each of our Holiday Markets in Springfield,” adds Molly Gleason, communications director for Illinois Stewardship Alliance. The Alliance manages two holiday markets in Springfield in addition to a chapter of the about 75 diverse specialty crop and livestock farmers in central Illinois. “Small farmers often don’t have the quantity or capacity to sell to grocery stores, so finding an outlet to sell their products after the market season ends can be a real challenge. On the flip side, shoppers want locally-grown food, but once the markets end, it’s hard to get. Holiday and winter markets are really a way of bridging that gap.
The Alliance also compiles a list of holiday and winter markets across central Illinois through their Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter, which can be found at http://buyfreshbuylocalcentralillinois.org/single-post/2017/11/03/Holiday-and-Winter-Markets-2017.