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Twice as Nice

Side Dishes: Burlington Farmers Market makes winter plans

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Buying a month’s worth of food at one time can be pricey. So local-shopping loyalists should be pleased to learn that this year’s Burlington Winter Farmers Market will take place twice as often as before — every two weeks, from November to April.

According to market manager Chris Wagner, the steering committee has been considering a more frequent schedule since the winter market began in 2008. “We were hopeful that the market would become so successful we could try twice a month,” he says.

The biggest stumbling block has been the high cost of renting Memorial Auditorium, which makes winter vendors’ slots pricier than summer ones. “We worked with Burlington Parks & Recreation and Memorial Auditorium to come up with a deal that’s pretty fair,” says Wagner. Sellers who can’t afford to do all 12 cold-season sessions can opt for six instead.

Will locals regularly trek out in frigid weather to pick up cheeses, beets and meats? Wagner and company hope so. To help attract them, he plans to do a better job of publicizing the bands playing each week. “We’ll try to make it a focal point rather than a backdrop,” he says of the musical accompaniment. He’s considering cooking demos and a devoted children’s play area to help tempt shoppers.

That strategy is in line with the results of an informal poll Wagner took last winter. It revealed — to his surprise — that people go to the winter market for the “festival feel” and not just the food, Wagner says.

“We expected to hear that people were staying for less than 30 minutes,” he explains. Instead, most respondents stuck around for one or two hours. “They want to meet with friends, sit and talk, listen to music, and just hang out,” Wagner says. Now they’ll have twice as many opportunities.

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