It's too cold to gather on the Town Green for farmers' markets, and many vegetables are already out of season. But people can still buy locally grown carrots, turnips, potatoes and other vegetables at Winter Farmers' Markets held inside a heated greenhouse at Benedict's Home & Garden in Monroe. It's where many local vendors, including some from Oxford, sell their products during the cold season.
On Friday, Benedict's hosted the first of six farmers' markets. All will be on Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m.
Stacey Schmidt of Shelton held her four-year-old daughter Kaydee while buying beets, blue potatoes, Minzuna and carrots from Gazy Brothers' Farm's table. Gazy Brothers is based in Oxford.
"I learned about the farmers' market in an email," Schmidt said. "I think it's awesome. We miss the farmers' market we go to in the summer."
Phil Cyr, the store manager, organized the Winter Farmers' Markets with sales associate, Karen Demont.
"I read in a retail publication how other retailers were holding farmers' markets in the wintertime," Cyr said. "It helps the farmers and it creates traffic to our store. It's a slow time of the year."
Demont said, "The greenhouse is empty, so it's an ideal fit. We've gotten some positive feedback."
She said the rotation of vendors will change a bit from week to week and the market will try to attract people to hold demonstrations. For instance, next Friday there will be a spinning demonstration.
Bruce Benedict, owner of the garden center, also wants to bring in food vendors, so visitors can eat while they shop.
Demont said, "It's nice to have local produce at this time of year."
Fresh Produce, Dog Treats ...
Friday's line up of farmers included Daffodil Hill Growers of Southbury, Guy's Eco-Garden of Shelton and Moorefield Herb Farm of Trumbull.
Guy Beardsley said his family's farm started in Stratford in 1635, before moving to Trumbull, Monroe and then to Shelton. During the warmer months, he is a regular vendor at the Monroe Farmers' Market.
Benedict's Winter Farmers' Market also had vendors selling products, including The Olive Oil Factory out of Waterbury and Carrot Top Kitchens of Redding, which offers specialty foods, gift baskets, catering and restaurant consulting.
The market even featured homemade dog treats.
Chris Hamilton of Trumbull makes Irish horse and dog biscuits. His business, Molly & Murphy, is named after his own dogs.
Among the dog biscuit flavors are Guinness Stout, Coconut and Carrots (which are the most popular). The original flavor is Honey Wheat, according to Hamilton.
At a time when news reports of tainted dog food from China has made some pet owners uneasy, Hamilton touts his biscuits as healthy. For example, he says the coconut biscuits are good for a dog's digestive system, coat and skin. And that it increases the animal's metabolism. Molly & Murphy even offers gluten-free biscuits.
"My dogs Molly and Murphy eat them," Hamilton said of his dog treats, before smiling and adding, "I eat them too."