Published January 18. 2014 6:00PM Updated January 19. 2014 12:07AM
Stonington — Taking cover from the rain inside The Velvet Mill, shoppers chatted with vendors from across the region. Musicians played the violin and strummed the guitar as the aroma of fresh soup wafted by.
At the Stonington Village Farmers Market, customers on Saturday filled bags with the region's produce and winter specialties — from kale and butternut squash, to meats and cheeses.
At the market, which runs on Saturdays year-round, growers Paul and Jo-Ann Desrochers were selling Swedish turnips, leeks, garlic, fingerling potatoes and an assortment of heirloom beans they'd harvested in the fall.
"Everything you see here is what we freshly grow," said Jo-Ann Desrochers of both 18th Century Purity Farm in Moosup and Hall Homestead in Plainfield.
The Desrochers also were selling apples, including Connecticut originals, such as the Pound Sweet and Black Gilliflower. Paul Desrochers, who also helps run the market, showed off his expertise by pointing out the favorite apples of past presidents. Thomas Jefferson favored the Esopus Spitzenburg, while George Washington preferred the Newtown Pippen, he said.
The Desrochers said they take special care when they store each of the 80 apple varieties they grow — the Macoun thrives in very cold temperatures, while the McIntosh prefers a warmer environment.
While farmers markets may be more prevalent in the warmer months, shoppers on Saturday said they were glad to have a place to buy local vegetables in January.
After choosing some hearty winter vegetables and some grass-fed beef, Judy Treadway of Mystic said she loved the market's spacious venue and being able to shop locally year-round.
"For farmers markets to continue into the winter is good," she said.
Dawn Holmes of Essex stopped by the Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm stand for a sample of cheese, which she said was excellent. She said she comes to the market both for the Lyme-made cheese and for produce from other local purveyors.
"There's a wide assortment here," she said.
Several vendors said the year-round market has attracted a loyal customer base, as well as newcomers.
Pawcatuck's 1654 Davis Farm was offering fresh eggs and cornmeal, ground on the farm's premises and sold without preservatives.
"We have a good following of people who come back," Dara Karas, the Davis Farm's assistant manager, said. "You can't get this kind of corn meal anywhere."
Annie Chittenden of Madison visited the market with friends Saturday, scoping out local outlets where she might sell her own crafts. But while she was there, she also picked up some pea and broccoli sprouts from Aiki Farms in Ledyard and some advice on how to grow her own squash sprouts.
"I like to buy local and organic as much as possible, so farmers markets are where I like to hang out," she said.