The bit of extra downtime that winter brings provides an opportunity to focus on family, community and for the New Year’s resolution-makers, on healthy living and eating.

Here are a few ideas for how you can support all of these important parts of life, while also supporting local food and family farms this winter:

Visit or volunteer at a winter farmers market — We are fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of locally grown and processed farm products and plenty of opportunities to purchase them, even during winter.

Winter farmers markets can be a fun way to get out of the house with family, socialize with neighbors and food producers, and purchase food you’d otherwise grab at the grocery store, like meat, cheese, eggs, flour, canned foods and fresh produce like carrots and potatoes. Most markets also offer volunteer opportunities to help the market run smoothly for both visitors and vendors.

Winter markets in the area include:

Milaeger’s Great Lakes Farmers Market, 4838 Douglas Ave., open year-round on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Milaeger’s Great Lakes Farmers Market, 8717 Durand Ave., Sturtevant, open Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. January through March.

Kenosha Winter HarborMarket, Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St., Kenosha, open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through May 5.

Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market, Greenhouse Annex at Mitchell Park Domes, 524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee, open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through April 14.

Sign up now for a 2018 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share — Winter can be a money-tight time for some farmers, especially for those who earn a majority of their income during summer and fall. Purchasing a share of locally produced food from a CSA farm now can provide some cash flow to farmers who buy a lot of their inputs during the off-season.

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Contribute to efforts and organizations that support family farmers — We do a lot of eating during the holiday season, so it’s the perfect time to acknowledge the efforts of those who put food on our plates. And this year, support is especially needed. Many farmers this year are experiencing financial stress due to low commodity prices, low milk prices and high input prices. There are several ways in which we can demonstrate thanks and support, a few include:

Contributing to the Harvest of Hope Fund — This fund provides financial gifts to Wisconsin farm families who need assistance to meet emergency needs for things like food, energy bills, medical or veterinary expenses, and feed for their animals. To find out more about this fund and to contribute, visit www.madisonchristiancommunity.org/harvest_of_hope.aspx.

Donating to organizations that serve farmers — A few local and Wisconsin-based organizations that accept contributions for programs that support current farmers and help develop the next generation of farmers include the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation, the Wisconsin Farmers Union Foundation, the Fondy Food Center and the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.

Eating at a restaurant that offers local food — Supporting local farmers can be as simple as going out to eat. Several restaurants in southeastern Wisconsin source from area farms, and though every part of your meal may not be 100 percent local, a dinner out at one of these establishments can help them continue the often difficult and time-consuming task of sourcing from trusted local producers.

Listings of winter farmers markets, CSA farms, farm to table restaurants and farmer-supporting organizations can be found at www.farmfreshatlas.org.

Leigh Presley is agriculture educator for Racine and Kenosha County UW-Extension.

Leigh Presley is agriculture educator for Racine and Kenosha County UW-Extension.

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