YARMOUTH, Maine — When folks filed into the Log Cabin on Main Street on a recent Wednesday evening, they came not to address the Town Council or the Planning Board, but to shop for potatoes, radishes, pork chops and cheese.
A couple of young area farmers have made the Log Cabin, a town-owned facility where local meetings are often held, an unlikely home for their winter market, and they’re looking to extend the local produce season as long as possible.
Justin Deri, 39, of Deri Farm in North Yarmouth, had the idea when he realized the summer market, which runs from May through September on the Town Hall Memorial Green, was ending and he still had loads of good produce left.
He teamed with Sarah Wiederkehr, 37, who manages Winter Hill Farm in Freeport, and with the help of Yarmouth’s director of planning, Vanessa Farr, they established the winter market on Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m.
Summer may be the peak of the farm season, but fall brings its own treats.
“Once it starts to get cold and we get a frost, the starches convert over to sugars,” Deri said. “Things like kale, turnips and parsnips have a more pleasant taste; less bitter and a little more sweet.
“One of my favorite things about this time of year is the root vegetables because they’re really easy,” Deri said. “I just roast them with a little bit of garlic and olive oil, maybe some rosemary. You clean them up, cut them into relatively equal sizes, throw them into the oven, and 45 minutes later they’re done.”
On Oct. 23, the market’s first night in the cabin, customers perused an assortment of obscure veggies, including hakurei turnips and watermelon radishes.
“There’s a lot more than tomatoes, potatoes and corn in the vegetable world,” Deri said. “I think when people are a little more adventurous, they’re often pleasantly surprised.”
People sampled feta and Camembert cheeses from Wiederkehr, who also raises pigs and dairy cows. Many stuck around to mingle with neighbors and the farmers themselves after they shopped.
“Nobody knows the guy who sets out the produce at Hannaford’s,” Deri said.
“The market is a really social event for a lot of people,” Wiederkehr said. “It’s a community event, and people love it.”
It also keeps money in the community and helps support the local economy, Wiederkehr noted. And, of course, there are the culinary benefits.
“Frankly, I feel like local food is so much tastier,” Wiederkehr said. “There’s no comparison, really.”
Originally, the market was scheduled to be held in the Firehouse Arts building on Center Street, and it debuted there on Oct. 9. But when Harriet Burgoon, a neighbor whose land abuts the Firehouse Arts property, challenged whether the market was an allowable use of the building, the farmers sought a new location.
“My initial reaction is it’s a community function and it would be allowed in a public building,” Town Manager Nat Tupper said. “But it’s not a debate worth having and spending money on. I just responded by saying, ‘Let’s take the friction away.’
“I contacted the American Legion to see if they would take them on as a guest one day a week,” Tupper said. “They thought it was a pretty good idea. I said the rent could be a contribution to the local food pantry on a periodic basis. We’ll just make this a community effort.”
After closing for a week, the market reopened in the Log Cabin. The farmers hope to keep it going through Christmas and to add more vendors.
“I’m really appreciative that [the Log Cabin] is there and we have access to it,” Wiederkehr said. “It’s in a central location downtown. It’s a cozy spot and I think it’ll work out well.”