TRAVERSE CITY -- Marlene Trowbridge stood before a table in the basement at Building 50 at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons and popped a freshly roasted chestnut into her mouth.
"They are very good," she said. "It's fresh and you don't get that at the store."
Trowbridge, who lives on Old Mission Peninsula, was among dozens of shoppers at Traverse City's first indoor farmers market, which launched Saturday at the Commons. It's a new venture intended to provide a venue for local growers to peddle their produce through the coming winter months, as well as a place for local consumers to buy fresh food even though the summertime farmers market is ended for the season.
"Why are we shipping produce from California when we can grow it right here?" said Ray Minervini, president of the Minervini Group, redevelopers of the Commons.
And there were plenty of options to choose from: bunches of carrots, beets and parsnips, potatoes, squash, garlic cloves, apples, plums, lettuce, tomatoes, baked goods, fresh cheeses, milk and free-range eggs, plus much more.
Patty Pettit sold emu meat, oils and soaps, plus raw honey from her farm in Thompsonville.
"It's a great opportunity for us to continue on with our sales and bring Traverse City people the things they need through the winter that they wouldn't otherwise have," she said.
Rebecca Davis, of Traverse City, came to the market and stocked up for her raw-food diet.
"Whenever possible, I prefer to buy local. I love local food. It's so fresh and so different," she said.
And that's the idea.
"I think it's an opportunity for people to buy and eat fresh, even in the wintertime," said Ella Cooper, who roasted chestnuts in olive oil and salt at her booth.
She said the new indoor market is also especially useful this season, when farmers' crops ripened late and harvests pushed into mid-autumn. Cooper didn't harvest chestnuts until the last week in October, three weeks later than normal, she said.
"By then, the (outdoor) farmers market had wrapped up," Cooper said.
Many farmers extend their growing season by moving operations into greenhouses, so the indoor market is a place to also extend their sales. Minervini hopes the Saturday event becomes an annual tradition as summer winds down and the farmers market in downtown Traverse City closes.
Others also hope the indoor market takes off.
"I will be here every Saturday all winter long," Davis said.
Traverse City is not the first community in the region to host an indoor farmers market. Frankfort in Benzie County is three weeks into the second year with a city-sponsored indoor farmers market at the city's Recreation Center on Main Street, said Cindy Lannin, market manager.