By Joel Wool

On January 8, Boston kicked off a season of healthy produce with blaring horns and a full crowd at the opening of the Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market—a new venue for access to delectable, farm-fresh food and the only winter market in Boston to accept EBT.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer of the Boston Public Health Commission joined Mayor Thomas Menino, State Rep. Russell Holmes, Councilor Charles Yancey, Codman Square Health Center CEO Sandra Cotterrell, Boston Director of Food Initiatives Edith Murnane, Dorchester Food Co-op Program Manager Jenny Silverman, and neighborhood activist Cynthia Loesch to formally open the new market. During a scant three hours, all produce was sold and over 600 people passed through the market’s doors.

You can eat healthy this winter, but you might have to race your neighbors to it! Squash, potatoes, onions, kale, beets, meats, breads, and cheeses lined tables at noon, but vanished quickly—a testament to the high-quality edibles delivered by Powisset FarmOakdale FarmStillman’s MeatsLawton Cheese, Proofed Artisan and Traditional Bread. Vendors’ jaws dropped as hungry customers tossed future salads, stews, and stir frys into bags. Recipes cards, generated from a “$5 Food Challenge” competition months earlier illustrated great ways to buy fresh while eating on a budget.

Of course, the market had other offerings. Dorchester’s Good Measure Bakery offered sweets (note to cupcake eaters: eat your veggies first, and be sure to brush your teeth!) while Heart of Boston Massage Therapy eased stiff muscles, parents from Ashmont Nursery School painted faces and representatives from WIC distributed nutritional information and supplies. Planet Goga offered stylish garments to little tykes and adults alike. And outside, the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band played their rollicking tunes.

Make no mistake: the market warrants fanfare. The farmers’ crops make a winter wonderland out of an area often (and problematically) characterized as “food desert.” Simple as they may seem, fresh vegetables do a great deal to help make people healthier, and some wonderful partners strive every day to make that health affordable. Through a program called Boston Bounty Bucks, EBT/SNAP customers can get up to $10 of their purchase matched, obtaining a $8 purchase for $4 on their card, or $20 for $10. To those without disposable income, this match makes an incredible difference.

Future markets offer more food, a rotating set of vendors and further enticement: free children’s books, composting workshops, and carnivale fun are just a few of the treasures in store. Take it from Rep. Holmes: “It is clear that we should have a winter farmers’ market… the answer is yes.”

The Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market is located in Codman Square (6 Norfolk Street, Dorchester MA 02124) and opens noon to 3 p.m. each Sunday through March. It joins the SOWA (485 Harrison Ave; Sundays 10 – 3) and Prudential Markets (800 Boylston Street; Sundays 11 – 5) in sowing a season of nutritious cuisine.

Joel Wool is a community advocate with GreenDorchester. For more info on the Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market and good things happening with the Dorchester Community Food Collaborative, please visit http://dotcommcoop.wordpress.com/. You can also follow the Co-op on Twitter @DotCommCoop, or “Like” the Co-op and Winter Farmers’ Market on Facebook. 

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