Buying clubs, on the other hand, allow shoppers to buy only what they want each week. And Winter Harvest, which is marking its 11th year, has options for vegans, vegetarians, celiacs, and omnivores.
Ordering online from a list of 500 items gives buying club shoppers the advantage of shopping without leaving home until it's time for the weekly pickup.
Much of what's grown in winter is familiar: carrots, onions, potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, leeks, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, collards, spinach, arugula, shallots, and mushrooms.
But the local farms supplying Winter Harvest offer a wider variety. Sweet potatoes alone come in purple, fingerling, Japanese, Jewel, and Hernandez varieties - all certified organic, and all from Landisdale Farm in Lebanon, Pa.
Pierson also buys from Linden Dale Farm in Ronks, Pa., which started as a dairy farm in 1850. When Andrew and Mary Mellinger took over from his ancestors in 2006, the couple replaced the dairy herd with La Mancha goats. Now they sell goat milk and cheeses as well as chops, shoulder roast, even ground goat.
Metropolitan Bakery sells its granola and breads through Winter Harvest, and serves as a pickup point.
Tom Sherman picks up his weekly Winter Harvest order at Metropolitan's Rittenhouse location on South 19th Street.
"I'd had a food co-op in my basement at one point," said Sherman, a retired English professor and former photographer, and management consultant to nonprofits. "When I first met Bob Pierson, which was in about 2000, we spoke a common language.
"I was already sold on the idea of buying with a clear conscience and getting food that is more flavorful because it is local, healthier because it is organic, and responsible to society because it makes it possible for small farmers to succeed."
Winter Harvest also sells prepared foods: family-size casseroles of lasagna, pulled pork, and beef stroganoff, as well as rustic soups and stews.
Those don't appeal as much to Sherman, who enjoys home cooking as much as Gabrielle Giddings of Elkins Park - another Winter Harvest customer.
Giddings, whose home is also a Winter Harvest pickup site, made coq au vin last week the authentic way - using a stewing rooster she bought through the buying club.
"I've never even seen an actual stewing rooster before," Giddings said. "So that just shows the kind of diversity you can get. I order produce, meat, cheese, and dairy. And knowing what I'm getting in advance helps with meal planning. I love it."
Here is of list of some of the outdoor farmer's markets in the area that will operate in somewhat sheltered locations this winter:
Suburban Station Farmer's Market: Noon to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, 16th Street Concourse between Market and JFK near the 16th Street elevator.
Rittenhouse Farmer's Market: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, 18th and Walnut Streets.
Chestnut Hill Growers' Market: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on second and fourth Saturdays January through April. Winston Road between Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane.
Clark Park Farmer's Market: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at 43d Street and Baltimore Avenue.
Collegeville Farmer's Market: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, Jan. 7 to April 28. Inside the farm store of the Longview Agricultural Center, 3215 Stump Hall Rd., Collegeville.
Fitler Square Farmer's Market: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday at 23d and Pine Streets.
Bryn Mawr Farmer's Market: 10 a.m. to noon, first and third Saturdays, January through April. In Municipal Lot 7 on Lancaster Avenue, in front of the Bryn Mawr train station, across from Ludington Library.
Glenside Farmer's Market: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., first and third Saturdays in January and February, plus March 3. In the greenhouse at Primex Garden Center, 435 W. Glenside Ave.
Phoenixville Farmer's Market: 10 a.m. to noon, second and fourth Saturdays, January through April. Under the Gay Street Bridge, accessed by Taylor Alley.
Upper Merion Farmer's Market: 10 a.m. to noon, second and fourth Saturdays, January through April. On the lower level of the parking lot in the rear of the Upper Merion Township Building.
Read previous stories in the series at www.philly.com/foodandfarm
Rosemary Caramelized Parsnips
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise, and halved again crosswise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place the parsnips on a large baking sheet with sides. Drizzle with melted butter, olive oil, apple cider, and vinegar. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper and toss to coat.
3. Spread the parsnips in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes, until they are tender and caramel-colored.
4. Remove the parsnips from the oven, season with additional rosemary, salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
- From Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster (Clarkson-Potter publishing, New York 2005)
Per serving: 168 calories, 1 gram protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, 9 grams fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 39 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.
Go to www.farmtocity.org and click on "buying clubs" or call 215-733-9599.
Contact staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211, email@example.com, or @marderd on Twitter. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/diannamarder