In the cooler inside the Mermaid Farm farm stand, hidden behind the frosty glass doors and tucked underneath the lamb shanks and marrow bones, is a basket of Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars. If you’ve stopped at the Chilmark farm stand for freshly made yogurt or farmers’ cheese, you may think this is a mirage. It’s not, and by the way, you can pick up a bag of local flour, a jug of kombucha, and perhaps a couple Satsuma oranges while you’re at it. Where else but Martha’s Vineyard could you get ice cream at a self-serve farm stand — in the middle of winter? There may be other places, but this I know for sure: Our farm stands have stepped up to the plate during the pandemic, responding to a hungry community looking for quick and safe alternatives to the big shopping trip at the grocery store.

Like a ravenous sourdough starter gobbling up sugar, our burgeoning population has demonstrated an unbridled enthusiasm for micro-local shopping and anything locally grown. Just try to find a pork chop or a package of bacon and you’ll realize the local meat supply has been pillaged. One thing farms can’t do overnight is grow more animals.

But they can plant more. And plant they have. Simon Athearn at Morning Glory Farm estimates his farm grew and harvested upwards of 10 per cent more produce this year.

Cheese is just the beginning at Grey Barn Farm.

At the start of the pandemic, Island Grown Initiative mobilized its staff to build 14 more soil beds in its greenhouse and added two more acres to the regenerative farm beds. Growing more food and partnering with the Island Food Pantry has helped them reach more hungry folks on the Island. Among other things, that means the Mobile Market, a truck selling affordable Island produce and eggs, will be able to maintain a regular schedule of delivering food to six locations around the Island every week through February. (For safe shopping, online preorders are now required for most stops.)

And community demand has propelled all kinds of other changes at local farm stands. This winter The Grey Barn and Farm will temporarily move its retail farm stand into the barn that houses their bakery while they make modifications to the current structure and their parking lot to allow for better flow and a bit more product. The farm stand in the current location will close for business on the afternoon of Dec. 24, and the winter farm stand will open on Jan. 2 and be open Fridays through Mondays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., until April. You can sign up now for their winter bread CSA.

North Tabor Farm has its new enclosed farm stand stocked to the gills. Rebecca Miller told me they still have produce (kale, collards and more) growing in their greenhouses, and they’re augmenting with greens from Island Grown Initiative and winter vegetables from Morning Glory. And that’s just the start. Rebecca has joined a co-op to bring in all kinds of things to round out dinner (and breakfast), from butter and milk to tortillas and bagels. There’s Chilmark Coffee, of course, and you can even pick up a bottle of Pellegrino from the cooler. I went up for lettuce the other day and came home with a little block of homemade soup base made by Rebecca’s daughter Ruby — with a recipe for farm soup to boot. North Tabor’s farm stand is open during daylight hours.

Mermaid Farm yogurt is a staple. — Ray Ewing

Another day I stopped by Beetlebung Farm and bought two smooth, purple turnips for $1. I brought them home and roasted them with honey and rosemary. I was so happy. To be honest, I didn’t really have to go up there. But I needed to get out of the house, and I knew a drive along South Road and back on North Road would be just the thing I needed to lift my mood. Plus, I like to support the smaller farms.

I was a small farmer with a year-round farm stand for many years, and there were plenty of days when we had nothing more than turnips and eggs for sale. I loved the people who bought those turnips! It’s important to remember that as fun as it is to have all these new products at some of the more established farm stands, we want to keep them all going by buying what they’ve got on hand. Think about the joy that smaller farms give us in the winter — the chance to get outside and see animals grazing, the surprise joy of a basket of just-harvested winter leeks or a supply of fresh eggs in the self-serve fridge. And this year, a safe space without crowds or lots of time spent indoors.

I think it’s worth emphasizing this point: extra goodies are a win-win for both us and the farmers. They’re convenient for us and they help monetize the important local growing that farms do. Farming vegetables is a low-margin business; the farms that stay in business long-term without non-profit support all must have value-added products to make it. But the best way we can support all local farms is by buying what they’ve harvested and by eating seasonally. Right now everyone has a lot of winter squash. And it’s going to be that way for a while since squash keep well. So please buy winter squash, and if you think you don’t like it or you need ideas for what to do with that Koginut, visit

We are going to have lots of local carrots, parsnips, beets, and potatoes this winter, too, thanks in part to the fully conditioned vegetable-processing barn Morning Glory completed earlier this year. In it are two designated coolers, Simon explained. One is a low-temp, high-humidity cooler for crops like carrots, parsnips, and brassicas like cauliflower and broccoli. The second is a “high and dry” cooler for things like potatoes and rutabagas that don’t like the moisture. Thirdly, the vegetable barn also has storage space for winter squash. In years past, the squash had to hang out in a greenhouse, where it eventually froze.

Best of all, we’ll all be able to buy that produce at the Morning Glory Farm store during the month of January. For the first time in its 40-year history, Morning Glory is keeping the farm store open after December. “It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and the staff is really excited,” Simon said.

We’re excited, too. Not just for parsnips but for that block of cream cheese I needed to make rugelach the other day and the hunk of parmigiano I needed for a pasta recipe test. A run down to Morning Glory and a quick dash through the store solved those dilemmas.

And with Ghost Island Farm reopening on Jan. 2 (they’ll take their two-week winter break starting Dec. 19), we’ve also got the pre-order and outdoor-pickup option this winter. I love ordering from Ghost Island and love that I can order a pint of local kimchi or a quart of half and half along with their stellar greenhouse greens.

You may be looking forward to January for any number of reasons this year, but you can now add local farm-stand shopping to your list. See you around.