A Guide to Eating Local This Summer in Colorado
We’re starting to get beautiful spring, blue sky days here in Colorado, and while winter is probably not quite done with us yet, it does mean the growing season is around the corner. Already, many local farmers are prepping their early-season crops for farmers' markets, local grocery supplies, and farm stands, and in times like these, eating local and supporting these small businesses has never been more important. This summer, you can visit your local farmers' market or have your fresh produce and handmade goods delivered right to your door, but either way, you can count on enjoying the best that Colorado has to offer.
Colorado Farmers Markets
During the warmer months of the year, farmers' markets are held across the state nearly every day of the week, so there’s little excuse for not eating local if you desire. We’re fortunate in Colorado to have a huge variety of local growers. Below are just a few of the Colorado Farmers' Markets you should really be adding to your to-do list.
On the Western Slope…
The Durango Farmers Market runs on Saturdays from May through October in front of TBK Bank, and it is a hub for local bakers, cheesemakers, farmers, and more. In Telluride, you can choose from Market on the Plaza, which is open on Wednesdays, and the Telluride Farmers Market on Fridays. On Saturdays, Aspen has a great market that stretches across two blocks downtown. In Palisade, home of some of the best produce (peaches) in the state, there’s a Palisade Sunday Farmers Market, and in Grand Junction, you can find everything you need at The Market on Main every Thursday.
In the Central Mountains…
If you’re hankering for fresh produce in Summit County, you’ll have plenty of options throughout the week, from Breckenridge Sunday Market (held weekly on—you guessed it—Sundays!) to the Dillon Farmers Market on Fridays. Saturdays are a busy day in the mountains during the summer, when farmers' markets are held in Steamboat Springs, Salida, Minturn, and Gunnison, just to name a few.
In the Front Range…
On weekdays, farmers' markets can be found in Erie (Thursdays), Broomfield (Tuesdays), Cherry Creek (Wednesdays), Estes Park (Thursdays), Evergreen (Tuesdays), and Fridays (Woodland Park). During the weekends, you’ll find markets in big cities like Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Fort Collins, as well as smaller towns like Timnath, Monument, Longmont, and more.
The greatest part is, this is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. (Sorry, was that joke too corn-y?) There are great farmers' markets all over Colorado, and here is an interactive map where you can find them, with information about their dates and times of operation.
Farmers Markets 101
Now, if you’re new to the world of local produce, it can be extremely overwhelming to wander the booths and stalls, but luckily there are a few easy tips for newbies and experienced farmers market shoppers alike:
- Always have a plan. Just like they tell you not to shop when you’re hungry, make sure you know what you’re looking for when you head to the farmers market, or you’ll end up leaving with way too much or way too little food.
- BYO Bags. Not all market stalls have their own bags for carrying their products, but even if they do, you should remember to bring your reusable shopping bags with you before you leave the house. You’ll reduce waste, and they’re way more comfortable (and cute!) to carry as you wander the rest of the market.
- Choose your timing wisely. The best selection often goes fast, so if you’re looking for something specific, get to the market early to make sure they don’t run out. Similarly, there are benefits to going later in the day, as many farmers discount their leftover produce so they don’t have to transport it back home after the market closes.
- Bring cash and small bills. Most vendors these days have the ability to swipe credit cards, but if you’ve got cash (in small bills so you don’t have to keep asking for change), you’ll be able to complete your transactions much more quickly, meaning you’ll spend more time shopping and less time standing around.
- No one knows their products better than the farmers and people who made and sell them, so take full advantage of this by talking to the people running the market stalls. Ask questions about produce you’ve never seen before, ideas for recipes and uses, the farm’s practices when it comes to growing and production, and whatever else comes to mind. So long as they’re not overwhelmingly busy with other customers, most people are happy to talk about what they love.
Bringing the Farmers Market Right to Your Doorstep
Current events, and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, might make it difficult to get out to the farmers market this season, and in fact depending on how long social distancing practices and localized restrictions are in place, it might make it difficult or impossible for many of them to open at all. This means our local producers are more in need of our help than ever, and luckily, there are a number of ways you can still get fresh, delicious produce delivered right to your door.
The first option you should look into is a local CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs allow you to pay upfront or monthly for a fresh food subscription service. Some of them deliver, and some of them offer curbside or farm stand pickup at locations that are convenient for many of their customers. You can look up CSA programs in your region here to find one that suits your needs.
There are also a number of services that work to connect consumers with growers and producers in your area. Colorado MarketMaker is a resource with a full inventory of vendors and producers who make fantastic products all over the state, and it tells you exactly how you can get your hands on them. Similarly, there’s Farm to Fork Colorado, which lets you select shipments of fruits, veggies, eggs, dairy, and more from local farmers, and delivers them weekly, biweekly, or as often as you’d like right to your house. On a smaller level, there are local greenhouses and nonprofits like Growhaus in Denver which do the same thing in your community.
For more information, here is a full list of CSAs, farmers' markets, food festivals, and other resources to help you get the best and the freshest local products in Colorado.
by Emily Krempholtz