Volunteer Today: Seacoast Eat Local – Winter Farmer’s Markets

Volunteer Today: Seacoast Eat Local – Winter Farmer’s Markets

Through the series, “Volunteer Today,” Strafford Regional Planning Commission highlights various volunteer programs in the region you can participate in to support your community’s transportation and economic development needs.

With approximately 4,400 farms in operation across New Hampshire and over 450,000 acres of farmland, one would think that fresh groceries would be easily accessible by all communities year-round[1]. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In the Strafford region, food deserts are a real threat to communities, where many residents are “more than 1 mile (urban) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest supermarket.”[2]  Our spotlight organization, Seacoast Eat Local, aims to increase access to local foods for residents through four approaches: their annual publication, Seacoast Harvest; their SNAP/EBT Benefit Programs; SAMM, the seacoast area mobile market; and their Winter Farmers’ Markets, which we will highlight in our blog.

Seacoast Eat Local’s Winter Farmers’ Markets provide opportunities not only for farmers to generate income during a typically slow season, but also for community members who do not have access to fresh foods in the winter. Volunteers work various roles in the fall and winter to help the Winter Farmers’ Markets run smoothly.

Winter Farmers’ Markets

The Winter Farmers’ Markets run from November to April, a season where most farmers’ markets have ended and access to fresh foods decreases. Entering its 11th season of operation, the Winter Farmers’ Markets expect 40 to 50 vendors from farms from our tri-county service region: Rockingham, Strafford, and York Counties. Alternating between Exeter High School and the Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford, this indoor market allows residents to support their community’s economy by buying fresh food locally.

“The Winter Farmers’ Markets also benefit the region’s economic market. [The markets] help extend the growing season, which in turn changes growing practices within the New Hampshire farming industry,” shares Jill Hall, director of programming with Seacoast Eat Local.

Volunteering in the Winter Farmers’ Markets

Volunteers play many roles within the Winter Farmers’ Markets. Early morning volunteers help set up, carrying crates of produce and building displays. During the day, volunteers can be found staffing market tables, answering questions and doing transactions. Volunteers who assist at the close of market help farmers load equipment and produce, as well as help clean up the grounds. One can see how vital volunteers truly are.

From individuals to groups of friends, volunteers can be seen throughout the markets; even businesses use the Winter Farmers’ Markets’ volunteer program as team building activity for their employees.

“Do it! It’s a lot of fun,” Hall shares. “There’s a warm, friendly, festive feel in the Winter Farmers’ Markets. It does get a bit chilly, so wear lots of layers: boots, earmuff, etc. And you might get a little dirty.”

But that’s part of the fun, right? For more information on the Winter Farmers’ Markets, check out Seacoast Eat Local’s website at www.seacoasteatlocal.org. Make sure to also sign up for their newsletter, which includes important information on market dates and additional volunteer opportunities throughout the year. For volunteer information, contact Jill Hall at jill@seacoasteatlocal.org.

 

Source: Seacoast Eat Local

 

[1] https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=NEW%20HAMPSHIRE

[2] https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas/