Indoor Markets Offer Farm-Fresh Flavors All Winter Long

By Diana Walker Griffith

Most of the vegetables available this time of year are the root variety—potatoes, onions, carrots, beet and shallots, for example—and cold-tolerant greens. At the area’s three winter farmers’ markets, you can find these and a whole lot more — bars of handmade soap, crafts, pottery, jars of honey, jam, kosher dill pickles and peaches and winter soups, as well as dairy products including raw milk cheese, yogurt, and goat’s milk.
     Snow, slush, ice and bitter cold temperatures are not keeping loyal shoppers from their favorite farmers’ markets.
          On a recent Saturday morning when snow was still falling and driveways had to be plowed before anyone was able to go anywhere, vendors still came to sell and shoppers still came to buy local goods at the Millheim Indoor Farmers Market, which brings people together from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Bremen Town Ballroom at 105 E. Main Street. 
          Formerly held at the Old Gregg School in Spring Mills, the market is now in its second year at Bremen Town, past home of many Millheim establishments. The restoration of the ballroom is the work of local carpenter Joshua McCracken, who, with his wife Erin, owns a green events company called EcoVents. Visitors to the market can also buy brunch served by the McCrackens (he bakes, she cooks the meats) and hang out with friends. Warmed by a wood burning stove, the Millheim Indoor Farmers’ Market is a Penns Valley gathering place, for sure.

    “We’re able to keep a lot of the spirit of the outdoor farmers’ market,” says Erin, likening it to a “food court” that’s cozy as well as quaint. The McCracken toddlers are also in tow, as is the family’s golden retriever. Erin calls her “the queen of Millheim.”

    The market’s regular vendors include Michael Arthur of Tamarack Farm in Spring Mills. He and his wife Janice Jenkins are usually on the left, just inside the door as you enter, and you’ll also find their booth at the Boalsburg Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays. Tamarack Farm raises Icelandic breed sheep and grows herb and vegetable plants. Their stock includes specialty produce, hen eggs, lamb cuts and sausage, dog and cat biscuits, and wool products, including felted and knit goods using their wool.

    Gemelli Bakers — based in downtown State College — are fixtures at all three indoor markets. They carry beautiful, crusty round loaves of sour dough bread and other varieties, plus little bags of sweets. At the Millheim market they were also selling soft pretzels.

    Warren, Tina and Ben Leitzel of Ecosophy Farms are also regulars in Millheim; their farm specializes in hard and soft neck garlic varieties. Tina was there with shallots and with her hand-woven water bottle bags.

    Shoppers will find a larger venue in the Boalsburg Farmers Market, held from 2 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday at the St. John’s United Church of Christ, 218 N. Church St.

    James Byler was there offering samples of his goat milk products, including a rich and creamy chocolate milk, and a large variety of aged raw milk and dry curd cheeses. His stock includes drinkable yogurt, kefir and ice cream. He and wife Darla own Byler Goat Dairy at Seoquoia Farm in Big Valley (Belleville).  We picked up some delicious all natural peanut butter fudge at his booth.
           We also sampled cider that tasted like a sparkling wine and bought some onions from the Amish, who also offered a tempting selection of canned foods, including homemade sauerkraut and pickled beets.

    Many of this market’s vendors had root vegetables to sell. Jade Family Farms had a beautiful selection of lettuce, escarole, turnips, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, thanks to a good fall.

    The Downtown State College Farmers Market, open 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays inside the State College Municipal Building, at 243 S. Allen St. This market’s vendors include three Amish farms. One offers a multitude of raw milk dairy products; another has onions, apples, raw honey and maple syrup; while the third, we were delighted to discover, carried jars of kosher dill pickles, peaches, and $1 whoopie pies that were superb— just sweet enough. He also makes a variety of savory homemade potato chips. Vendors also include Nittany Valley Organics, Eden View Plow to Platter, and Brazilian Munchies.

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