Local Farmers Settle into Winter’s Lull and Plan for Spring
While there is much real work to do, this is the aspect of winter farming that makes the rest of the year possible for us. It is the pause to remind us that we love what we do, are inspired by it, and long to do it once again.
It’s 6 o’clock on a Wednesday night in November, pitch black, and the first snow is coming. The neighborhood is bustling with the sounds of leaf blowers and chainsaws. In every yard there seems to be some sort of activity happening. In our own yard and farm, we work quickly to harvest leeks, broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, and green tomatoes. The sounds around us are reassuring as we spend the last hours of the season gathering what we can from our beds. We are lucky this year that the season stretched so far into the fall. Last year’s snow came almost a month earlier and didn’t leave until spring. That’s the thought on all of our minds as we race the night towards the end of the farming season. Will we see the ground again?
The next day is all rain, and though we are grateful for the reprieve and happy to tidy a few more corners of the farm in the stolen time, we were maybe secretly hopeful that the snow would come and we would have to admit defeat until spring. That we’d have to take a break from the endless cycle of turning and amending soil, planting, weeding, harvesting, selling,and preserving.
The snow finally comes during the night, surprising us all with its sudden realness. Asa, our almost 2-year-old, is ecstatic while watching the glistening snow outside our window at 5 a.m. We feel both pride in the stoke for winter we have fostered all summer and fall and a yearning to go back to sleep on this cold dark morning. The stoke wins and we head outside in the early morning light to explore in the snow and try all of the things to do with snow that we’ve been reading about in the warmer months: trying on skis, attempting to make snowballs, practicing shoveling.
We all take a breath to enjoy this sudden change of the seasons. The snow continues sporadically over the next 24 hours. We watch it come down and marvel at the seasons of New England, each so entirely different from the next. The face-numbing wind and snow make it almost impossible to remember the feel of warm soil under bare feet, the intense hope and joy of watching the first seedlings push into the sunlight.
The bones of the last kale and broccoli in the garden will have to wait—forlornly fossilized in the snow. The soil tests we were supposed to do this fall will have to wait. The weeds and the ground cover we didn’t get to will have to wait. We have done all we can, and for now, we are out of time. Now is the time for resting, for recharging, for planning.
Many, many farmers, even those in this rugged climate with its relentless snow and cold, find ways to farm through the winter with the use of tunnels and heated greenhouses. Those of us who live here are very fortunate to be able to find fresh local food year round. However, on our small farm (at least for now), we take the winter off from farming. Our cellar is stocked with leeks, garlic, Brussel sprouts, and squash; our freezers are overflowing with cubes of kale and pesto, bags of tomato sauce, corn, and berries; our pantry is stocked with dehydrated tomatoes and jars of chutney and relish. We love being able to eat what we have grown throughout the winter—and make a contest of trying to eat all that we have put away. All of that bounty leaves us plenty of time for the real work of farmers in the winter: planning.
The winter season is not what you focus on when you dream about becoming a farmer. In the short months between that first snow and the time when we will once again push seeds into warm soil, there is still much to be done, even if you are not growing. There is the business side of things: finalizing profit and loss sheets, calculating future expenses, paying taxes, and reparations. There are the books to read, which were carefully selected and passed around throughout the summer, but have been waiting for the pause in seasons for a chance to crack the spines. And then there is the planning—trying to implement new systems, test new crops, different row configurations, scheduling when each crop will be planted, transplanted, harvested. Winter is the time for making resolutions, for vowing to be more thorough, to document more, waste less, and imagine a November when everything is tidy well before the first snowfall.
The spring garden grows in the farmer’s mind throughout the winter, untethered to the realities of time and money. It is inspired by books read, by conversations had over potlucks, by workshops attended, by dreams that wake you in the night. And while there is much real work to do, this is the aspect of winter farming that makes the rest of the year possible for us. It is the pause to remind us that we love what we do, are inspired by it, long to do it once again.
We will start seeds inside at the end of February—and then we are off and running once again, little time to think, little time to plan. Winter is the chance for our brains (and spreadsheets) to catch up to our hands. I can only imagine what winter must be like for farmers who grow year round—no break in the cycle, no stolen moment of quiet to watch the snowfall and know that you’ve done all you can.
Liz Freierman owns and operates Highwater Farm with her wife, Rachel, and their child, Asa. You can find them on the farm in Bartlett, NH or selling berries, veggies, pies, and more at the Jackson Farmer’s Market, when open. You can also find them online at www.highwaterfarmnh.com.
Where to Find Local Food During the Winter Season
It’s easy to eat local in the summertime. Farmers markets and farm stands can be found relatively easily and are stocked with all your favorite veggies and just about every kind of delicacy you can imagine. Although the choices drop during the colder months there are still lots of locally grown goodies to pick from. Here’s where to find them!
Winter Farm Stands
Fly Away Farm
Offering organic sourdough bread, their own jams, potatoes, shallots, onions, carrots, beets, chicken, pork, black Angus beef, handcrafts, such as soaps and wreaths. Winter offerings available by order or at Lovell Farmers’ Market.
142 South Barbour Road, Stow, ME
(207) 446-7352 • email@example.com
Grand View Farm
Route 16 farm store open daily, now through the end of the Christmas Season, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Offering trees, wreaths, garland, centerpieces, crafts, jam, maple syrup, and more!
564 White Mountain Highway, Conway, NH
(603) 960-2199 • www.facebook.com/gvfarms1
Self-serve farm stand is open throughout the year
offering eggs, chicken, heritage pork, goat meat, maple syrup, and honey. If the barn door is open,
the store is open.
930 West Side Road, Conway, NH
(603) 986-0544 • www.naylenfarm.com
Open daily, sun-up to sun-down, featuring organic eggs, chicken, and forest-raised pork, and vegetables to-order.
570 East Main Street, Denmark, ME
(207) 939-1493 • www.facebook.com/patchfarm.me
Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm
Open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. offering eggs, maple syrup, beef, pork, and lamb. Both ground meat products, as well as various cuts, for sale by the piece.
58 Cleveland Hill Road, Tamworth, NH
(603) 323-7591 • www.remickmuseum.org
The Sandwich Creamery
The Creamery stays open year round with seasonal flavors. Winter offerings include fresh and aged cheeses: cheddar, smoked cheddar, brie, caerphilly, coulommier, and three flavors of spreads. And ice cream!
130 Hannah Road, North Sandwich, NH
(603) 284-6675 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Featuring farm-raised beef and pork, milk in glass bottles, and locally handmade crafts.
2679 E. Conway Road, Center Conway, NH
(603) 939-2412 • www.shermanfarmnh.com
Top of the Hill Farm
Featuring pasture-raised beef, pork, and lamb available all year, as well as eggs and maple syrup. The farm stand is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round. At the Exeter and Rollinsford Seacoast Eat Local Markets in the winter, as well as the York Winter Market.
50 Martin Hill Road, Wolfeboro, NH
(603) 817-0620 • email@example.com
White Gates Farm
Self-serve farm stand open year round, featuring chicken, pork, beef, and eggs, as available. Year-round events and lodging on the property, as well. Check out the “Pizza in the Greenhouse” series on select Saturdays all winter long!
2153 Cleveland Hill Road, Tamworth, NH
(603) 662-7538 • www.whitegatesfarm.com
Weston’s Farm & Market
Farm stand in Fryeburg open daily through Christmas Eve, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., offering a large selection of decorated wreaths, garland, and kissing balls, as well as gifts, books, holiday wines, and baked goods. Cut-your-own and pre-cut Christmas trees.
48 River Street, Fryeburg, ME
(207) 935-2567 • www.westonsfarm.com
Winter Farmers Markets
Organic vegetables, chicken, pork, and eggs, grass-fed meats, grass-fed dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, jams and jellies, locally roasted coffee, fresh-baked bread.
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Runs through April 20, 2020.
214 Main Street; Bridgton United Methodist Church
Offering organic sourdough bread, artisan pastries, cookies, meat, produce, handmade soaps, jewelry, therapeutic-grade essential oil products for body and cleaning, holiday gifts, wreaths, and more. The Lovell Farmers’ Market takes place at the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library on Main Street in Lovell, Maine every 2nd and 4th Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Contact Shelby Monroe at (207) 925-3177, or head to www.hobbslibrary.org
The Tamworth Winter Farmers’ Market is held at the Tamworth Town House, 27 Cleveland Hill Road (the main street through Tamworth Village) every week (except November 30) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through the end of the year; and then periodic Saturdays January through March.
• November 2, 9, 16, and 23
• December 7, 14, 21, and 28
• January 4 and 18
• February 1, 15, and 29 (leap year!)
• March 14 and 28
Contact Bob Streeter at (603) 323-2392 with any questions, or go to
Convenient on-site parking and easy access for all. Fresh vegetables, raw milk, artisan cheese, honey, pastured meats, baked goods (including gluten free), poultry, eggs, handmade soaps, and selected crafts, all from the local area. In addition to great local products, the market sponsors a DOUBLE SNAP program, which offers double benefits to carriers of the Electronic Benefits Card (EBT).
Open on the first and third Saturday of each month from November 2 through May 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the First Congregational Church of Wolfeboro, 115 South Main Street.
Foothill Farm Alliance Winter CSA
A collaboration of five farms in western Maine and New Hampshire, the Foothill Farm Alliance offers fresh veggies from November through February. Every other week, CSA members go to one of four meeting points, visit with the farmers and other members, and pick up their veggies. A typical share includes storage crops like garlic, onions, and winter squashes, as well as fresh greens, such as spinach, head lettuce, mustards, and herbs. Late season inquiries are okay!
Pick-up locations are in North Conway, Center Conway and Ossipee, New Hampshire and Gorham, Maine.
Details at www.foothillfarmalliance.com
Winter Retail Outlets
• Spice & Grain, Fryeburg, ME
• The Other Store, Tamworth, NH
• Farm to Table Market, Ossipee, NH
• The Local Grocer, North Conway, NH
For more local food opportunities, keep in touch with local food advocacy group, Mt. Washington Valley Eaters & Grower (MWVEG). Find them on Facebook or reach out directly to Jesse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MWVEG, is a group of farmers and local food advocates working together to build a vibrant local food system in the greater Mt. Washington Valley. For additional information on local farming, pick-up a copy of the Local Farm Guide, a grassroots form of cooperative marketing and public education tool.
Find an additional listing of all the NH winter markets, visit www.agriculture.nh.gov.