Friday, 17 February 2017 15:39

Saratoga Farmers Bring Fresh Produce to Market – Even in February

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February often feels like a frigid countdown to spring. A visit to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market’s winter location might change that perception. You’ll find tables loaded with tomatoes, cucumbers, salad greens and spinach, kale, cabbage, carrots, turnips, radishes, sweet potatoes and potatoes, winter squash, and beets. Where does this produce come from? Not the grocery store. A growing number of local farmers grow it year round, using such structures as greenhouses and high tunnels to provide their crops with the water, sun, and soil nutrients needed to thrive. Five farmers at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market offer produce year round: Gomez Veggie Ville, Malta Ridge Orchard and Gardens, Pleasant Valley Farm, Sheldon Farms, and Shushan Hydro Farms (which grows its produce in a mineral rich water solvent). The Gomez family – Valentina and Efrain Gomez along with their daughter Lizbeth – share some of their winter growing tactics here. Lizbeth Gomez said winter growing began about seven years ago in a single greenhouse on their Schaghticoke farm. “My mom had a small greenhouse behind our house, and we expanded from there.” The family now operates five greenhouses. They begin planning their winter harvests with plantings of greenhouse crops of spinach, kale, baby lettuce, and arugula. Once the greens are harvested, it takes four weeks for the plants to regrow. So they plan their season around the plants’ growing schedules while keeping in mind that sudden freezes will stall the growth of more vulnerable greens. If the day is warm, they open their greenhouses to bring in fresh air and sun. On cold days, they keep the greenhouse closed to protect their young greens. The family balances their supply of fresh greens with such crops as beets, carrots, butternut squash, potatoes, parsnips, dried beans, and onions. These items typically ripen in early fall and are stored in walk-in coolers so they can be made available to market shoppers until spring when warmer soil and longer days makes outdoor planting possible again. “When people see our tables, they often ask if we really are growing everything,” said Efrain Gomez. He hopes that more people will continue to visit farmers’ markets in the winter as they realize the abundance available year-round. The Saratoga Farmers’ Market takes place Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Lincoln Baths Building in the Saratoga Spa State Park.
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