Roots and Sustainability at the Thanksgiving farmers market

Michael Doctor - Winter Moon FarmHave you heard about the special Thanksgiving indoor farmers’ market that Sally Frank Farmers’ Market is hosting? Sunday, November 24th from 12-4 pm in Memorial Hall, 590 Main St. in Melrose. We will have 25 vendors and the best that the harvest has to offer. I will be describing some of our farms and food producers in a bit more detail in separate blog posts over the next week. This is my first post describing Winter Moon Roots from Hadley, Massachusetts.

Michael Docter, owner of Winter Moon Roots, has some of the best tasting root vegetables that I’ve ever come across. I first came across Winter Moon at the SOWA winter farmers’ market in 2011. He was handing out tastings of his carrots and I was bowled over with the flavor. We are so lucky that they will be at our special Thanksgiving farmers’ market! When I spoke to Michael this past Tuesday, it was just after a night of being in the 20’s here in Melrose – in Hadley it was below 20. Michael said he was up until late in the evening harvesting the beets. He said because beets have a portion of their roots sticking above ground, they need to be harvested when it gets below 20. He said he had 21 guys working in the dark; they collected 25,000 lbs. of beets. I had no idea how much 25,000 lbs. of beets was – Michael said that a pallet, which is a bit more than 3 feet on each side, stacked 3 feet high would be 1,200 lbs. of beets. That’s over 20 pallets stacked 3 feet high – that’s a lot of beets!

Michael explained that each vegetable has it’s own requirements for harvesting. For example, carrots can be left in the ground right now, but will be harvested between now and Thanksgiving. Parsnips can stay in the ground almost all winter and will be better tasting for it – they freeze solid!

Their business motto is to create high quality local vegetables throughout the winter when a lot of our food is being imported from far away. They have taken the traditional concept of the root cellar and turned an old barn into a clever cold storage that uses very little energy to operate. The cold comes from a complex air exchange, using a fan, a door and a computer to regulate the temperatures at just above 32 degrees – 32 1/2, to be exact. This is optimal for storing root vegetables. Since the vegetables are harvested when it is cold, they do not need a lot of energy to bring them down to their storage temperature.

The reduction of their carbon foot print is a feature of Winter Moon’s business model. They make local deliveries of produce on a bicycle powered trailer. There is a solar array on the roof of the barn which helps power the farm. They even have a bicycle powered grain mill which grinds the locally grown grain for the chickens. Winter Moon is committed to sharply reducing the size of its carbon foot print. The farm’s storage facility consumes minimal electricity and uses minimal refrigerants or energy intensive compressors to maintain its temperature. The farm also works with other nearby farms. For example, Mountain View Farm grows their sweet potatoes and Michael swaps them carrots. This helps Winter Moon bring more variety of produce to the farmers’ market.

All of the produce from Winter Moon Roots is certified organic. Michael’s wife, Lynn, raises chickens for eggs. They call the chickens Lynn’s Laughing Layers. The chickens, which are allowed to roam in the field, eat grass, bugs & local grains that they grind on the bicycle powered mill while the chickens laugh at them.

Winter Moon Roots will be bringing carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, delicious Hakurai salad turnips, Psychedelic Watermelon Radishes, sweet potatoes and eggs.

To see more of the vendors we will have at our Thanksgiving Harvest Festival, go to our website at www.melrosefarmersmarket.org.

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