The weather outside’s not frightful,
And the A/C inside keeps it delightful,
‘though we’ve plenty of places to go,
Local greenmarkets have plenty to show.
And with apologies to those who prefer that Christmas carol as it should be, it really is a good time to shop the local outdoor markets. Well-situated throughout the county, from Boca Raton to Tequesta, and from Wellington to West Palm Beach’s waterfront, you don’t have to travel far to find a gift or a dinner ingredient. Each market has a personality of its own: Delray Beach specializes in organic food producers almost exclusively, while The Acreage vendors are nearly all from their community. Lake Worth High School (the only market that runs both Saturday and Sunday) is a small part of an enormous flea market that can take two days to cover. Most markets are in parks, but then you find Jupiter’s market, located underneath a massive concrete and steel drawbridge.
What’s the attraction to shopping now and local?
- The weather never really gets too cold to shop outdoors. A nip in the air means you need a sweater or jacket. Most of the markets sell hot breakfasts, coffee and pastries to provide fuel for shopping.
- Florida winters are the perfect time to plant and grow your own food. It’s not too hot or wet, and the bugs that plague the summer months are gone.
- Local growers and artisans have families, too. Your spending on their products helps their holidays.
- A gift from the farmer’s market will be different from anything store-bought. You’ll not only purchase a unique item, you’ll get a little history about the person who made it and the work that went into it.
- Local greenmarkets educate your kids. If they only see food in supermarket plastic wrap, a market is a good way to introduce them to honey still in a hive, the chickens laying those eggs, root vegetables with the roots attached and what herbs and spices that make food tasty actually look and smell like on their own.
- If the kids get bored, most market venues are located near open spaces, to give them a place to play. Some even have playgrounds.
- It’s not just about the food: most of the markets have books, jewelry, pottery, clothes, soaps, candles and pet products. And if you’re too busy, there are heat-and-eat food options available to take home.
- All that walking from stall to stall offers a little exercise. And since so much of the holiday turns out to be so much about the food, any opportunity to walk is a good one.
- If you have company in town, the outdoor winter markets are a quintessentially local thing to do. Your guests probably cannot stroll on their own streets in the middle of winter, deciding on dill pickles, pausing over pastry and picking out fresh produce. It’s a treat for them.
- South Florida greenmarkets offer some unique winter items: fresh local citrus, Key lime made into just about everything from cookies and pie to candies and sauces, several varieties of fresh tomatoes and more recently, award-winning Castronovo bean-to-bar chocolates and local coffees from roasters in Palm Beach and Martin counties.
These markets offer the opportunity for face to face connections in a digital society. You connect with your neighbors. You connect with the people who grow your food and make your gifts. You connect with people who may provide a service (some of the vendors also run catering operations, food trucks and restaurants). In a lively crowd, with so much good food and art, you cannot look down at your phone. It’s impossible not to engage with what is around you. Always make it a point to walk up and make a friend of at least one vendor every time you visit. You may not be buying from them this time, but next time, you might. And that vendor will remember you.
Palm Beach County market listing: http://www.pbcgov.com/coextension/agriculture/development/greenmarkets.htm