By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD

News & Journal Editor

According to USDA data, farmers’ markets have experienced growth in every region of our country in recent years.   They play many important roles for both farmers and consumers.  While farmers markets in the spring and summer months continue to draw huge crowds, some areas do feature winter markets as well, but with meat vendors, bakers and artisans being more of a feature.  And Clarksburg is fortunate to offer such a winter market!

A member of the Board of Directors and an enthusiastic organizer of Clarksburg’s Farmers Market, Micayla Ash says people in the area are encouraged to get out of the house and attend 2019’s first market to be held at the First United Methodist Church in Clarksburg on Saturday, January 19th.

“We’re calling it our ‘Warm Winter Wishes’ market, and it offers people the opportunity to come and browse around indoors in the church’s gym,” she stated.  “Even though it’s wintertime and there isn’t the abundance of produce that is offered during the warmer months, we will still have several vendors present offering everything from chicken, venison rabbit, pork and beef, to lamb.  We will also have personal care body products and soaps that are naturally made, organic pet products, natural and organic pet treats, and artisans with aromatherapy products featuring essential oils, to name a few of our vendors that will be attending.”

Micayla noted that the Clarksburg Farmers Market has grown to be year-round.

“It all begins around Mother’s Day when we have our initial spring event that offers lots of flowers,” she added.  “Liberty High School’s FFA has gotten involved with that and several vendors bring hanging baskets.  It kind of gets people ready to think about getting outdoors for our Spring/Summer markets that launch around Memorial Day and run through mid-October.    They are always held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the parking lot at Tractor Supply.  These are held rain or shine and our vendors set up canopies for weather protection.  Our summer markets are very popular due to people looking for early fresh vegetables, and some of our farmers who have high tunnels will have that early produce in May and June.”

Cooler and more unpredictable weather forces the local market to move indoors from November through April, but these still draw consumers.

“Santa visited our December market and everyone had a great time.  We offered attendees hot chocolate and cookies, and the Notre Dame Choir was on hand to offer music.  We typically have a lot of craft vendors for the markets prior to the holidays,” Micayla added, “and our visitors often look for some gifts for Christmas giving.”

In addition to providing opportunities for buying local products, farmers markets have become gathering places within communities where shoppers can visit with one another and feel free to bring their children while looking for seasonal items.  Produce is also fresher, more flavorful, and full of more nutrients because it has not been transported from afar and is minimally processed and free of preservatives.

Typically, meats, cheeses, eggs, etc. that are found at farmers markets come from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics and have eaten natural diets.  Shopping at a farmers market also gives buyers a great connection with farmers and they can learn more about how and where the food is produced.  Some vendors may even offer free advice about how to cook the foods they are selling!

“We invite the public to come and enjoy our January 19th winter market where they can be cozy indoors regardless of what the weather presents outdoors.  Our winter market hours are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  There is also plenty of parking in the church parking lot,” Micayla concluded.  “We hope the public takes advantage of this upcoming market next Saturday.  This is a wonderful tool for our farmers and local growers and vendors.  Sometimes they get their feet in the door and build a customer base and may decide to start a brick and mortar business.  Come and offer support to our local farmers!”

Among the vendors who have already confirmed their attendance are: Richardsons Farm, Sweet Wind Farm, Tarryleas Grassfed Meats, Momma Leah’s Goods, SMB Table, WeSign2, and Crumbles & Stitches.

If you miss this one, the next winter market in Clarksburg will be held on Saturday, February 16th.