Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Continuing to build a healthy culture throughout the winter

There are some real challenges to being a New England locavore. The most obvious is what local foods are available during the long winter months? The answer is: probably more than you think. Greenhouses and other season-extending technologies together with food preservation and processing options are creating new possibilities for increasing the local food supply well into the winter.

Then other key to all this is markets - and that means more local food distribution systems like winter farmers markets that provide access to healthy, locally-grown and processed foods. (GW)

Winter Farmers' Market now in season in Dorchester

By Miriam Valverde
Boston Globe
Janaury 9, 2012

Hundreds of people elbowed past each other, carrying shopping bags loaded with carrots, potatoes, and onions. Sellers of artisan cheeses and farm-fresh vegetables had to rush to restock their wares.

Yesterday was opening day of the Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market, which organizers hope will encourage all members of the community - including low-income families - to shop healthy and locally.

And judging by the turnout, the first day was a success.

“Everything went so quickly,’’ said Mike Smith, a manager at Oakdale Farms, based in Rehoboth. “I didn’t expect this great demand.’’

The farmers’ market in Codman Square is the only one in the city where shoppers can use their electronic benefit transfer cards issued as part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to pay for groceries. Those who qualify for the program include low-income families and some people with disabilities.

In the long term, organizers want to open a neighborhood store where residents can have easy access to healthy food and share a space for community activities.

As Bernadette Rucker, 63, waited to receive a complimentary 10-minute massage - offered to all visitors to the market from Heart of Boston Massage Therapy - she said she was very grateful to have a farmers’ market in her neighborhood.

“I love the idea of coming here to get fresh food and vegetables,’’ said the 20-year Dorchester resident. “I’m a diabetic, so I’m one of those at-risk folks. I’m trying to get introduced to organic stuff, trying to find out how to eat more organically.’’

Shoppers who are members of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can also take advantage of a city initiative called Boston Bounty Bucks, which will match up to $10 worth of purchases, said Jenny Silverman, project manager at the Dorchester Community Food Cooperative, which sponsored the event.

“A lot of people write Dorchester off when it comes to healthy eating, but look at the excitement of the crowd. There’s real interest in this community,’’ said Silverman. “Dorchester wants to be part of the healthy food conversation.’’

Just 30 minutes into the event, dozens of people crowded a hall at the Codman Square Health Center, perusing stands of cheese, frozen meat, and vegetables. Long lines formed at farmers’ tables as visitors waited their turn to pick up white potatoes for $1 per pound, cabbage at $2.50 per head, and winter squash - ranging from $2 to $4, among other items.

Sandra Cotterell, chief executive of the Codman Square Health Center, said the market is a “great way to build a healthy culture’’ in Dorchester.

“There are not a lot of big markets here that offer fresh products, but everyone wants to eat healthy,’’ she said.

Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said she was impressed by the “outpouring of residents.’’

“This was all locally organized, and they made a dream a reality,’’ Ferrer said. “This really talks about supporting different needs. [The farmers] are providing healthy food and [the shoppers] are helping the economy.’’

Smith said he wished he had packed more vegetables and vowed to be better prepared next Sunday. The market will run for 12 weeks, every Sunday until late March, from noon to 3 p.m., organizers said.

Leaf remnants and pencil-size pieces of carrots indicated that a bucket was once filled with $2 organic carrots.

“Thanks for coming. This means an awful lot to us,’’ said Smith, as he sold $7 worth of white potatoes to a smiling customer.


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