The Off-Season: Life of Your Local Farmer

By Katie Coleman

Winter is here in all of its stillness, beauty and harshness. We’re hunkering down and entering survival mode until spring comes.

Although local fresh food options aren’t as plentiful this time of the year, there are still open farmers’ markets and access to locally-sourced foods.

Native Offerings Farm in Little Valley, Cattaraugus County, is just settling down for the winter after the holiday. In the past the farm offered a winter share through community-supported agriculture — or CSA — the but because of a fire that destroyed its barn, its owners decide to stop the practice this year.

But life continues at the farm. “Whenever we can harvest, we do [sahre our produce],” said Deborah Ann Ritchie, who has owned Native Offerings with her husband Stew since 2002. “There was a cold snap before Thanksgiving and we went out and were harvesting like crazy,” Ritchie said.

Since there’s such a short growing season in WNY, winter allows for planning and phasing the next growing season, and some much-needed quiet time.

“It’s a different kind of busy,” Ritchie said. “We’re prepping for next season because when all that lovely produce comes out you can’t focus on other projects. There might be less work in the winter but things take longer.”

Native Offerings supplies its produce to the Lexington Co-Op, FreshFix, a local delivery service that sends members a weekly box of locally-grown produce, and West Rose in Ellicottville, a restaurant that offers brunch and dinner, rotating the menu based on what produce is in season.

“The beautiful thing about farming is you’re flowing with the season. I appreciate that a lot because it just feels right,” Ritchie said.

McCollum Orchards in Lockport also shared a little bit about winter life on the farm.  The farm was established in 1827 and it grows year-round with the use of three high tunnels, although its community-supported agriculture wraps up in late December. They’re currently growing lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, celery, bunching onions and micro greens.

“Wintertime is when we plan for next season such as crop and fertility management for our fields, we purchase seeds and equipment and do repairs,” said Rich Woodbridge, who runs the farm with his wife Bree. “We attend workshops and conferences and determine new markets to pursue.”

“Wintertime can be frustrating. It’s the only time most farmers have to do necessary repairs or new construction, but there usually isn’t enough daylight or nice weather to get things done the way you want,” said Woodbridge, who sells produce at the Lockport Community Farmers Market during the winter.

Getting Locally-Grown Produce in the Winter

Lockport Community Farmers Market runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Saturdays, November through April at 210 Walnut St., Lockport. It sells veggies, fruit, plants, eggs, meat and dairy products, baked goods, breads, body and home goods, wine and spirits, coffee, etc.

Horsefeathers Community Indoor Market at 346 Connecticut St. in Buffalo is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. It features local farmers and artisans’ produce, baked goods, handcrafted art and more.

The Clinton-Bailey Farmers & Flea Market runs its winter market from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays until April 30. It sells local veggies, herbs, honey, sausage, jams and jellies, etc. It’s located at 1443-1557 Clinton St. Buffalo, NY 14206.

Photo: Scott Monaghan, a worker at Native Offerings Farm in Little Valley, Cattaraugus County.