BENNINGTON >> There's still two months left for the Bennington Winter Farmers Market, which means there is still time to appreciate the season's vegetables before spring rolls in. This Saturday, the market is hosting "Back to Your Roots: Adventures with Winter Vegetables."
Every vendor will be in on the theme this weekend to make the most out of winter vegetables. There will be taste testing of sweet potato fries and roasted squash seed as well as chocolate beet cake and carrot cake with lime frosting from the bakers, according to Audrey Pietrucha. Kids will be entertained with veggie-themed stories every hour at the half hour mark and will have the opportunity to generate potato, carrot and other vegetable artwork.
Farmer's market board member and special events committee chair Audrey Pietrucha said that incorporating education into the event is crucial for parents and children in the community as well as for a way to get people out and meeting each other.
"This is an opportunity to show that there are things to do and things can be fun and interesting and educational and they're a great way to get to know other people and farmers who live on large acre and they may be your next door neighbor," she said. "We feel like that's part of our mission as the special events committee to include the educational aspect, even for adults because we live in a time where people don't realize where their food comes from or locally produced."
Additionally, each vendor will be handing out coloring sheets that include word search games and recipes for winter vegetables.
The farmer's market is held every first and third Saturday of every month between November and April at the First Baptist Church at 601 Main St. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is fresh food, baked goods, prepared food, craft items, jams, syrup and much more as well as live music entertainment and other special events.
Instead of resorting to frozen dinners and boxed meals during the winter, utilize this list of winter vegetables from HobbyFarms.com for soups, desserts and other dishes that can be kept in a root cellar for three or more months. Beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, winter radishes, dried beans, garlic, onion, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatillos and tomatoes.
Depending on the theme, Pietrucha has been getting decent responses from the vendors about doing demonstrations or bring prepped dishes to be tried. The committee is looking to do a chef demo in the fall, but also attempt a children's farmer's market in July so that kids understand what goes into preparing produce or baked goods and then selling it.
This Saturday, there will be a table for children to guess what vegetables are in a box by sticking their hand in, in addition to cleaning off squash to roast its seeds in order to show how it can be a tasty snack, Pietrucha said.
The special events committee was established in mid November of last year after the quality response post annual apple pie contest.
"I think the reason I put the idea forward was because of our apple pie contest. It was in its fifth or sixth year and got really popular," she said. "There were 13 entries and I was a judge and was so impressed at the interest. There was a crowd around the table and people just really enjoyed it."
There are four winter market dates left with potential for special events as this, however when the weekly market returns on May 7, there won't be enough time to put in the work for additional features, according to Pietrucha.
True Love Farm in North Bennington will offer a variety of potatoes of different shapes, sizes and even colors. Steve Trubitt who owns the farm with his wife Karen said that they'll be bringing six types that include Adirondack red and blue, nicolla, carola, sifra, and Russian banana potatoes. He added that most are favorable for roasting and baking, but others, like the sifra and carola, are better mashed.
Aside from potatoes, Lisa MacDougall from Mighty Food Farm in Pownal will present a diorama of a root cellar and educate the public on the functions and uses of one. She also stressed the impact local farms have on the economy.
"We're going to have a tasting of roasted vegetables for people to try," she said. "A grocery store offers everything, but in New England, we can still offer fresh produce throughout the winter. Our growers have a focus on soil health and directly relates to higher nutrient value within the produce."
Mighty Food Farm vendors year round with the farmer's market and grows potatoes, onions, winter squash, beets, carrots, shallots, as well as spinach, kale and chard in greenhouses, which will be available on Saturday.
"For us, it really goes back to strengthening the local food economy, to eat locally and to have an idea of sustainability in our diet," she said. "The education component is almost a necessity. Educating the consumer about why it's more environmentally sustainable and economically sustainable as well is really important."
For more information visit http://www.benningtonfarmersmarket.org/.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.