This Saturday is your last chance until next year to stock up on local goods like organic sprouts, grass-fed beef, natural body products and more at the Concord Winter Farmers' Market held inside the greenhouse at Cole Gardens, 430 Loudon Road.
Joan O'Connor (you may be familiar with her product, Joan's Famous Composting Worms, because, well, her worms are famous) started the winter market after visiting Rollinsford's version. According to Joan, the Rollinsford market was strictly food-focused, leaving no place for her to sell her well-known worms. A light bulb went off in Joan's head and, with some hard work, the Concord Winter Farmers' Market was born.
The market – which has been running the last Saturday of the month since January – has been a success in the eyes of both Joan and Cole Gardens' manager, Charlie Cole. When Joan first approached Charlie about using the family-run business as a venue (Charlie's parents, Doug Cole and Jane Iarussi, own the place), Charlie told Joan that if she could get 50 people through the door, he'd be happy. In February, organizers estimated that more than 1,000 people came to shop and eat during that month's market alone.
We witnessed the market's success last month, because where there's food, the Food Snob isn't far behind. We arrived around noon and it was a packed (green)house. Even with people directing traffic, the parking lot was chaotic. There was plenty of room to park on Loudon Road, however, so that's where we left The Insider-mobile.
Once inside, we were greeted by the sounds of live music and the smells of baked goods and greenery. Surprisingly, even with people stopping dead in their tracks to check something out or to chat with an old friend, it was fairly easy to move around. During our first few laps, we eyed what the 20-plus vendors had to offer. Did we want a chocolate chip cookie as big as our head from Rollin' in the Dough in Tilton? Maybe a cup of soup from the Concord Cooperative Market to keep our energy up while shopping? All we knew was that we skipped breakfast and we needed some instant gratification.
Luckily, there was goat cheese. Our first stop was Twist of Fate Farm's table. Besides selling naturally-raised pork, beef and chicken, the Dunbarton farm had a tub of goat cheese (Agape Homestead All Natural Goat Cheese, $7.25) sitting on its table next to a plate of crackers. We waited patiently as others grabbed cracker after cracker, generously spreading on goat cheese. The only time they stopped was to ask a question or two of the woman representing the farm, so as not to look like they were only there to fill up on free samples. Granted, some people were probably genuinely interested in the farm's practices, but as we watched the plate of crackers dwindle before our eyes, we quietly wished to ourselves that they would just hurry along.
We did eventually get to the goat cheese, and we're glad we did – it was smooth, creamy and worth the wait. Apparently others thought so, too. “Only one more tub left,” the woman said to each person noshing away.
This wasn't the first warning of its sort we heard. One vendor was already out of eggs, another was running low on a particular variety of bread. It was only a little past noon, so it's safe to say the early bird gets the infamous worm in this scenario.
After a few more laps, we eventually purchased a package of savory garlic and cheese lamb sausage ($9.95 per pound) from Meadow View Farm, Gilmanton, and we gravitated back toward the booth with the giant cookies (Rollin' in the Dough) for a loaf of Irish soda bread ($5). On our way out the door, we were tempted by Cole Garden's “wine of the month” display and picked up February's wine, Undone pinot nior ($12.99).
There was plenty more to choose from – organic vegetables from the Vegetable Ranch in Warner, fudge from Mill Fudge Factory in Bristol and lobster from Sanders Seafood in Portsmouth all caught our eyes – but we were eager to get home and gobble up our purchases.
And don't forget, one of the main reasons Joan wanted to start the Concord Winter Farmers' Market was to sell more than just food. So, be sure to check out the other goods, too, such as Joan's worms, natural body care from S-Formulators in Henniker and snacks for your four-legged friends from both Mrs. Beasley's Dog Treats in Weare and East Coast Sales in Sutton. Keep the kiddies occupied with face painting by Hackleboro Orchards in Canterbury.
The last market of the season runs this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information and for a full list of vendors, visit colegardens.com or call 229-0655.
We went home with February’s wine of the month – Undone pinot noir – but we recommend you pick up a bottle of March’s wine of the month. This month’s featured vintner is Duck Pond and Cole Garden stocks both a cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay. We recently tried the cabernet and enjoyed its fruitiness and boldness. At only $12.99 per bottle, you really can’t go wrong.