CitySeed Indoor Winter Farmers’ Market

Outside In

Winter means hardship, and maybe that’s why CitySeed’s Indoor Winter Market, held in the Metropolitan Business Academy lobby each Saturday, feels counterintuitive. It makes life too easy.

Not so much for the farmers selling at the market, though; they’ve still had to do most of the work. At last Saturday’s season opener, Shelton-based Stone Gardens Farm owner Stacia Monahan mentioned that she keeps the sweet potatoes, garlic and winter squash she sells at 50° and her potatoes at 40°. She knows her stuff; they’ll be good ’til spring. She also grows extra fields of tomatoes during the summer to be made into sauces and salsas, jarred right here in New Haven at Palmieri Foods, which she sells through the winter.

From Northford, Northfordy Farm offered its own tomatoes, in sun­-dried form, plus candied ginger. Matthew Staebner of Blue Slope Farm in Franklin had free-­range meats like goat and cow, which he sells to “a lot of different clients,” including home and professional chefs around the city. Dolan Brothers Shellfish Company, which sells “the finest” clams and oysters as per enthusiastic deckhand James Namnoum, had mollusks harvested from the Branford and Quinnipiac Rivers. His captain, Patty King, says she’s “made a lot of friends” by coming to the market.

sponsored by

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

Dale Smyth, of Smyth’s Trinity Farm in Enfield, finds coming to the market “very encouraging.” Customers buy her cheese, yogurts and glass-­bottled milks and eggnog because, she says, they know about her “fussiness about every product”; she actually sets up outside to help maintain optimal temps for her dairy. Andre Kreft, doling out cookies from Savor Fine Foods based in Watertown, urges passersby to “try them all,” including the subtle yet bright Lavender variety.

Two newcomers to CitySeed’s wintry mix are Woodland Farms, bringing fruits from South Glastonbury, and Harper Keehn Knife and Tool Sharpening. Mr. Keehn, a student at Yale, finds the market a “relaxing” break from his studies. He sets the angle to stone, cuts a new bevel, cleans the burrs and polishes the finish for anything from hand spades to chef knives, charging a dollar an inch.

As far as last Saturday’s overall vendor list goes, we’ve barely scratched the surface, but there are others to mention, including, as CitySeed head Nicole Berube emphasizes, the “amazing staff” that make the thing happen. Market managers Julia Zhao and Beth Hutton organize vendors, entertainment and a crop of “absolutely critical” volunteers. The market also gets help via the Green Jobs Corps out of Common Ground High School, a program connecting high schoolers with environmental internships, jobs and other gigs.

And where there are students, there are extracurriculars. The market’s held on Saturdays, so many buyers and sellers have young’uns in tow. “Yoga for Kids” kept them busy, maybe even centered, on Saturday; Berube says additional non-food-related activities will be happening from week to week. Special guest Ethereal Toys, set to pop in a few times this season, will be selling toys made from CT-grown wool and kid-­friendly found objects.

CitySeed’s longtime mission to increase healthy food access in New Haven—back in 2005, its Wooster Square Farmers’ Market was the first in Connecticut to accept SNAP payments—is still going strong. Using an electronic credit/debit reader, the market gives SNAP card users wooden tokens to spend with vendors. (Credit and debit card users can pre-pay for tokens the same way.) CitySeed also dollar-matches up to $10 each day for SNAP users because, Berube says, “we’re all better off” when more people eat well—and, of course, SNAP users also contribute to the vitality of the market, filling it with warm bodies and warmth of spirit.

People get a sense of the larger impact a farmers’ market can have, says Berube, when they come here. Many of the vendors have been around since the beginning, and have seen customers’ children “grow from being an infant to a ten-year-old,” and that’s “pretty awesome.”

Berube likes the Metropolitan Business Academy setup because “it’s open, bright and airy,” with plenty of room to move around inside and to park outside (including overflow parking, if needed, at Unger’s Auto Body just down the road). It’s a nice local place and a nice local reason to gather, and it reminds us what it’s like to participate in a big little community like New Haven’s.

CitySeed Indoor Winter Market
Metropolitan Business Academy – 115 Water St, New Haven (map)
Saturdays, 10am-1pm, through April 25

Written and photographed by Jared Emerling.

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