Market Scene: Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers' Market in Providence, Rhode Island

"Such a small state, with such a vibrant food community."

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[Photograph: Leah Douglas]

The state of Rhode Island may be small, but as I've learned in my past few months attending school in Providence, it doesn't lack for food activities. One distinctive characteristic is the state's abundance of farmers' markets.

With more than 1,200 farms across the state, residents don't have to travel far to get seasonal produce. During the winter, options are naturally more limited. But the marvelous Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers' Market becomes the focal point of locavorism from November to May.

Only two years old, the market has already seen great expansion, now displaying wares from over 45 farmers and vendors. The market occupies a long hallway in a previously abandoned warehouse. Driving down North Main Street in this industrial part of town, you'd never expect to see crowds of locals toting reusable shopping bags parading in and out of a seemingly innocuous doorway.

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One of my favorite vendors, Narragansett Creamery, is the only cheese producer in Rhode Island and thoroughly committed to sourcing local milk and collaborating with Rhode Island farmers. All of their products are outstanding, but my personal favorites are their spreads.

The light and creamy Angelito is a milder but still distinctive cream cheese; the Pirate Spread is more aggressive and spiced, with a delicious sun-dried tomato flavor.

Some of the most delicious coffee I've had is produced by New Harvest Coffee Roasters. New Harvest has a strong ethos of fairness to coffee growers, practicing fair and direct trade in their coffee varieties. I'm no coffee connoisseur, but even I can tell these deep, rich brews are truly spectacular.

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And then there's the wealth of local bakeries, so tempting with their delicious aromas and authentic, homemade feel. Seven Stars Bakery is a household name around these parts, producing stellar crusty breads, moist cakes, and crumbly cookies. And Olga's Cup & Saucer is equally charming, their stall-laden down with macarons, sandwich bread, and pizza.

While not in Providence proper, the Pawtucket Farmer's Market draws crowds from all over the capital city and its neighboring towns. As I wandered from stall to stall, carefully tasting and praising one locally-made good after another, I was pleasantly surprised with how many shoppers and vendors I recognized. Students, farmers, and townspeople all wave to each other and giddily fill their reusable bags with produce.

Such a small state, with such a vibrant food community.