The term “farmers market” calls to mind a hot summer day, strolling through aisles of colorful fruits and leafy vegetables. But at the Santa Fe Farmers Market the greens are abundant yearround, and the unique wintertime vendors come together to create a market that’s completely and deliciously diverse.
According to Ceci Ervin, marketing coordinator for the Santa Fe Farmers Market, the winter market takes places every Saturday, from the first Saturday in December through the first of May. Fifty vendors, all from the 15 Northern New Mexico counties, come to the market to sell what they’ve grown, cooked, and created. “You’re going to find things here at the market that grow right here in the northern part of New Mexico, and that is pretty unique,” Ceci says. “You know you are getting authentic, real produce.” The market has strict guidelines for participants, requiring that all fruits, vegetables, and nursery items are always 100-percent grown in the northern counties. And in the baked goods and crafts, at least 70 percent of the materials are local, too.
The diversity of offerings at the market is truly unparalleled. “The winter market gives us so much diversity because you will find things like holiday jewelry, crafts, basketry, and pottery, alongside the greens that the farmers grow year round,” Ceci explains. “It is surprising to people that we can have greens all year. But it is all thanks to the farmers and the hoop houses.” Along with the typical winter fare for vegetables, which often includes potatoes and root vegetables like squashes, you’ll also find heartier greens like kale and collards, and even spinach.
The hoop houses that many of the winter vendors use are essential to the process, according to Ceci. They’re what make it possible to grow fresh greens in the winter months, when it would have otherwise been impossible in this climate. The vendors all have an appreciation for what the others are able to cook up at the winter market. Amy Quirke, owner of Intergalactic Bread Company and Space Sauce, is a regular vendor at the market and has been for years, and she loves seeing green. “The winter market is so impressive because these farmers can come out and show everyone the amazing work they have done,” Quirke says, “We can get fresh greens in the winter from lots of farmers now, where there used to only be one or two who owned hoop houses. It created such a variety.”
The Santa Fe Farmers Market also features a holiday market, which runs every Saturday during the month of December. During this time the 70-percent-local rule is a little more lax. According to Ceci, this allows vendors to introduce more variety to the market and give people new and exciting options for their holiday shopping. When it comes to stocking up for the holidays, the market is a one-stop shop for a holiday meal. “You can absolutely get a full Thanksgiving meal here,” Ceci says. “Pollo Real has an excellent turkey, and as you make your way around, you will find delicious breads and desserts, and of course, all of your veggies.”
But the holiday shoppers aren’t the only ones who value the winter market. In fact, for chefs and farmers in the area, the winter market is critical for good business. “This market is profoundly important to chefs and farmers,” Ceci says. “Chefs can come yearround for supplies for their restaurants and we see some here every week no matter what time of year it is. Farmers are able to make a profit yearround. They make a proper living because the market is busy all year long.” It is also a necessity for loyal customers who make their way to the market every week in search of fresh ingredients for at-home cooking. The market even has a double-up food-box program for EBT cards. It allows everyone to be able to afford coming to the market and enjoy the wide array of goods, especially around the holidays.
And if its diversity you’re looking for, you’re definitely in the right place. The market is abundant with different ethnicities and flavors, where the growers bring the tastes of their kitchens to you. And let’s be honest: how much more diverse does it get than kimchi pancakes? You heard us right. Kimchi pancakes.
This delicious creation is the brainchild of Jenn Yi-Mushen and her husband William, the owners of MiYoung’s Farm. Cooking based on old Korean family recipes passed down through her family, Jenn remembers watching her mom make “huge batches” of kimchi as a child, and the tradition lives on. Located in Jaconita, MiYoung’s Farm is known at the market for serving up one-of-a-kind creations. “Nobody but us has fermented foods at the market and that makes us unique,” Jenn says. “This is our fourth season, and we are really loving the diversity we’ve seen around us and getting to be a part of this while we raise our daughter. It’s such a blessing and such amazing work.” The family aimed to join the market with a niche, and they succeeded with a scrumptious spin-off of traditional Korean foods.
According to Jenn, the kimchi, along with many of their products, is vegan, meaning that people with all types of food sensitivities can have it. “There are so many talented growers at the market that we like to keep things interesting and keep getting creative so that we are always sure to bring something new to the market. We want to come in every week, all year round, and help enhance the market and make it more diverse,” she says. Recently, they started offering kimchi juice shots, which is exactly what it sounds like. The fermented juices make for a tasty and probiotic-filled shot—and a fun market experience, to boot.
But by far, the most popular item at MiYoung’s booth has got to be the kimchi pancakes. You won’t find anything quite like them. “It’s a savory pancake, and they are so delicious,” Jenn says. “A lot of people have said they are more like a crepe than a pancake because they are more thin.” You can order a pancake just the way it is, or you can pick up a fresh kimchi-pancake wrap, featuring items like fried egg, fresh greens, sprouts and arugula.
No matter what they’re serving up or which county they come from, you are guaranteed to meet farmers at the Santa Fe Farmers Market who love their jobs and work hard all year long. “The people who are selling you the product have nurtured it, grown it, and have brought it to market themselves to sell it to you,” Ceci says. “It’s rare to find a situation where the people who put their hearts into something are right there in front of you selling you their product and getting to know you.”
Story by Jessica Sosa