Although they came with their mother to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, the three young Fontana boys of Monroe were fascinated by A.J. Collier seated in front of a large spinning wheel at Benedict’s Home & Garden’s indoor farmers’ market.
Collier is the owner of Rowanwood Farm in Newtown, and a frequent participant in local farmers’ markets and artist fairs. She was demonstrating how to spin alpaca hair at Benedict’s.
In addition to alpaca wool skeins and raw fiber, the Rowanwood Farm display table also showcased goat milk soap and other goat-related products that come from the animals at the farm.
The Fontana boys — Jonathan, 7, Daniel, 4, and Alex, 1 — live near Benedict’s and were at the farmers’ market with their grandfather, Joe Avellino, an avid gardener, who came from Norwalk to visit the new winter farmers’ market.
In the spring and summer months, Avellino said, he plants his own large garden.
Since Benedict’s opened its first-ever farmers’ market three weeks ago, sales associate Karen Demont said, there’s been an increase in visitors. More than 100 customers ventured by on this particular Friday.
‘I think we really hit a home run’
“I think we really hit a home run,” Demont said. “It’s been steady since we opened, and the vendors and the customers seem to be very happy.”
Benedict’s store manager Phillip Cyr initiated the idea of hosting a winter market in the store’s greenhouse. As Demont explained, “This is typically a slower time because we’re in between seasons.”
The market will be open Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m. through March 1 at the Purdy Hill Road store. At that time, the greenhouse will be needed for Easter flowers and plants, she noted.
When Demont called some local farmers to see if there was an interest in a winter market, Demont found many enthusiastic vendors.
Local farmers are selling produce — such as specialty lettuces, parsnips and winter squash — that have either been stored from the autumn harvest or grown in greenhouses.
“People like supporting local farms,” Demont said. “In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had many repeat customers. It’s ‘a happening.’ People like to linger. I can definitely see us doing this for years to come.”
Diane and Ed Billings, of Monroe, had a successful shopping trip at the market. They purchased bags filled with leeks, spinach, squash, beets, turnips, and pickles.
Committed to healthy eating, the couple were pleased to be able to find the fresh produce in the middle of winter. When asked how she would use the vegetables, Diane said she would likely roast them in the oven.
James Phillips, a Norwalk resident who works at Aquarion Water Co. in Monroe, stopped by Benedict’s with his sister, Jodi. They were on their way to have a late lunch at Soup Thyme in Monroe.
James and Jodi were especially interested in the natural bakery products on display by Izzi B’s Allergy-Free Bakery. Coincidentally, they had recently come upon this company online when they were researching places they could purchase gluten-free and allergy-free products.
Peach and blueberry balsamic vinegars
After stopping at Benedict’s to purchase a heating mat, customer Rachel Keneally headed to the farmers’ market. A gardening enthusiast, Keneally was still harvesting Swiss chard and parsnips in the large garden she has created on her Easton property.
After sampling different oils offered by The Olive Oil Factory, Keneally decided to purchase peach and blueberry balsamic vinegars. After roasting the parsnips, Keneally plans to try the different vinegars on the vegetables.
Some of the other vendors at the winter market were:
—Daffodil Hill Farm (Southbury)
—Fresh Pastabilities (Redding)
—Gazy Brothers Farm (Oxford)
—Guy’s Eco-Farm (Shelton)
—Molly & Murphy All-Natural Irish Horse and Dog Biscuits (Trumbull)
—Moorefield Farm (Trumbull)