BENNINGTON -- The year-round Bennington's Walloomsac Farmers' Market was ripe for the picking on Saturday, with farmers and local craftspeople serving up hot fares on a rainy day.
The shortest day of the year was also the warmest day residents had seen in awhile, with temperatures reaching the mid-50 degrees.
Fresh vegetables, handmade crafts, maple and hickory syup products and baked goods were a few of the items being browsed by shoppers at the First Baptist Church located at 600 Main St.
"It's been a great boost for the farm during the winter months," said John Primmer, who owns Wildstone Farm, a certified organic operation located in Pownal, along with his wife, Joy.
The Primmers have been selling their fresh vegetables at the farmers' market every year since the market started, and recently started to harvest select items year-round in unheated greenhouses.
"It's relatively old technology. French market gardeners started the technique in Paris," said Primmer of their ability to grown spinach and carrots throughout the year, and lettuce as late as December.
"It just started becoming a popular way to grow during the cold weather about ten years ago," he said, citing rising fuel prices as a means of forcing people to become creative in their farming practices.
"It used to be that fuel was so cheap you could fly produce in, or pay to heat the greenhouses, but not anymore," said Primmer, who lets the sun warm his his crops, sometimes covering them with fabric when the temperatures drop.
Wildstone Farm offered unique vegetables on Saturday, including kohlrabi, a stem-vegetable in the cabbage family as well as shallots, garlic, celeriac, squash and potatoes.
Nearby, garlic and chive cheese curd, rounds of extra sharp cheddar and fresh milk were available from Schoolhouse Dairy. Wendy and Jeff Gibson both grew up on dairy farms, and have owned their 100-cow operation together in White Creek, N.Y. for almost four years.
"We send our milk out to a high-quality producer to be made into the cheese," said Wendy, who first set up at the Bennington Farmers' Market this summer and has been attending ever since.
At a table closer to the live music, Mary DeVito, also of White Creek, was starting to sell out of her handmade soaps and laundry detergent.
DeVito started making soap 13 years ago, and has been selling it as a hobby for almost five years.
"I lot of what I make I give to family and friends," said DeVito, who attends the bi-weekly market once each month.
Using both a hot process and a long-set process to make all natural hand soaps, pumice soaps for gardeners and mechanics and lye-based products using peroxide and vinegar, cutting the soaps into ridged designs before wrapping and labeling them.
"There are a lot of ways you can do it, there's always something new to try," she said.
The winter market will continue at the First Baptist Church the first and third Saturday of each month, Jan. through April, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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