NEW MILFORD — The crowds at the town’s annual winter farmers market weren’t as big Saturday morning as the hundreds of people who often show up to the weekly event, organizers said.

But dozens of residents braved the snow and cold to grab their share of fresh produce, meats and other goods set up at vendors tables around the East Street School basement.

“Even days like this, we have the regulars that show up,” said Gavin Titus, a member of the New Milford Youth Agency, which runs the market from November through January. “People are dedicated.”

The agency, under Executive Director Mark Mankin, has run the market for three years as a way to extend the typical farmer’s market season into the winter months.

Leaders at the agency realized that there weren’t any winter options similar to New Milford’s springtime farmers market on the Town Green each year, said Kellen Ness, another youth agency member.

The winter version has come to include many of the same farmers who participate in the spring market, with the addition of holiday gifts and seasonal goods like maple syrup and hot teas.

“A lot of these people are on the green during the spring, so we decided let’s get people fresh vegetables (in the winter) and move it in here,” he said. “The community comes together to provide for people, especially around the holidays.”

He said residents who visit the market each week, or other markets throughout the year, get to know the vendors, who for the most part grow and prepare the goods locally.

Mary Metz, of Washington, said supporting local farmers is one reason she frequents farmers markets in New Milford and Washington throughout the year. She stopped by a table set up by New Milford’s Hill Farm Saturday to buy leeks, lettuce and her favorite Hill Farm specialty — red sweet potatoes.

“The food (at farmers markets) tastes better, and most of it’s organic,” she said.

For Marie Titus, who sets up a table of handmade seasonal gifts each week, the shoppers often provide inspiration for new products.

Last week, she said, a shopper asked whether she could make lip balm, so she started working on it.

“I like to do something different each week,” she said, indicating her display of custom birdhouses, spice blends and holiday-themed kitchenware. “I like one-of-a-kind things. Not everybody can have everything one-of-a-kind, that’s impossible, but you just need that one little, homemade thing.”

Most farmers Saturday agreed the winter selection varies from what they can offer in the spring and often takes more creative methods to grow.

The root vegetables on a table set up by Sherman’s Happy Acres Farm was mostly “storage produce,” which is grown in warmer weather and then kept in coolers until it is sold, said Danielle Palladino, who manned the table Saturday.

Other farmers used greenhouses to add greens to the selection of root vegetables, said Adam Quattro, of Hill Farm.

The winter market will continue Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through Jan. 27.

aquinn@newstimes.com