Winter farmers market brings fresh food to Shawano

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski The Sam and Rachel Duo, of Gresham, performs Saturday morning at the FRESH Project’s winter farmers market.

People are interested in buying food locally. But aside from directly connecting with producers, there are few options to do so in the winter months.

Barb Mendoza, executive director for the FRESH Project, hopes to change that and is spreading the word about their winter farmers market, which had its latest sale day Saturday at First Presbyterian Church.

“This is another opportunity for people to buy local,” Mendoza said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the producers for the veggies and the meats or the artists like the people who make soaps and crafts. People in the Shawano area … want to buy local.”

The FRESH Project spent every weekend this summer at the Shawano Farmers Market next to Franklin Park educating people about the health benefits of certain foods, as well as handing out $5 tokens for those who might not normally be able to pay for food at the market. While talking to customers and other vendors, Mendoza heard many people express an interest in continuing the market after the local event pulls up stakes in early October.

Mendoza said First Presbyterian Church was very welcoming, providing the space where it holds its monthly community dinners for the winter market. She said she talked with the organizers for the summer market to make sure she wasn’t stepping on any toes, but officials said they were fine with her taking the lead.

“December was a little slow, but today it’s picked up,” Mendoza said Saturday. “We had three vendors who cancelled today because they were sick, but we’ll have just as many, if not more, next month.”

Mendoza said monthly was the better way to go versus weekly for the first year.

“This gives people an opportunity for people to go out and go shopping, buy local and meet their local producers,” Mendoza said. “I think it would be too hard, at least for the first year, to do it weekly, because people aren’t out too much in the wintertime. I wish they would be, but this is just a pilot program this year, and we’ll see what we can do differently for the next year.”

Mendoza said spreading the word about the winter farmers market has been a challenge. She has improved her marketing recently after appearing on morning shows with Green Bay television stations.

“Friends need to tell their friends,” Mendoza said. “I know the best advertising is sometimes by word of mouth.”

Besides the vendors, there will also be plenty of musical enjoyment. Dan Robinson, host of Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Simply Folk” program, will be performing at the next farmers market Feb. 2.