The Boulder Farmers' Market opened for business at 8 a.m. last Saturday, and from the moment the opening gong sounded, 13th Street between Arapahoe and Canyon was thronged. Organizers have no way of providing an exact number, but they estimate that around 8,000 people attended.
Most of the usual suspects were there manning the booths, greeting longtime customers and welcoming new ones, from Ela Family Farms -- no fresh fruit yet, of course, but lots of jams and butters -- to Cure Organic, Oxford Gardens, Red Wagon Organic Farm, and Isabelle Farm, all selling spinach, lettuce and other greens. Garlic queen Karen Beeman of WeeBee Farms stood at her stall, offering bulbs and planting advice; Frank Silva brought beef from his Highland cattle; the Wisdoms arrived with a truck full of chicken; Leistikow Farms had goat meat and lamb; and Sisters Pantry did its usual roaring dumpling trade. Among the new vendors: Matt Aboussie of Wild Alaska, selling his own wild-caught salmon, both smoked and fresh.
Future new vendors will include a nine-year-old garden farmer who calls his plot Fresh Mouth Farm, and is, according to market manager Jenn Ross, "way into agriculture." And at Wednesday markets, which start in May, Mansonville Orchards will put in an appearance: The owners are making a concerted effort to bring apple growing back to Boulder County, where it once flourished.
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Bob D'Alessandro, the executive director since October 2009, is no longer employed by the market, and it's unclear what changes -- if any -- may ensue, but the organization will remain adamantly local in focus. One change already in place: a charge of $1.50 for the Farmers' Market Bucks you can purchase with a check or credit card for market buys.
Although all the produce sold here is fresh and Colorado-grown, not all of it is certified organic. Some of the farmers use organic methods but can't afford -- or don't want to go through -- the certification process. Some farms are in transition from conventional to organic methods. Other growers use pesticides and sow genetically modified seed. It's up to concerned customers to inquire about what they're buying. "You are conversing with the person who grew that food," Ross points out, and this affords an opportunity for dialogue and transparency you could never find at a supermarket.
The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and, starting May 2, on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Check the website for more information.