Spring has officially started and this year it's herald by the announcement of the upcoming Boulder County Farmers Market, opening earlier than ever on Saturday, April 6. Fresh vegetables and fruits are on the way — hopefully along with warmer days and more sunshine.
"I know what I want to be there on opening day, but I know nature doesn’t keep opening day on her calender," says BCFM executive director, Brian Coppom, about what to expect at the first market. "It's interesting; we had a very cold February and March, with the snow cover and all that, and I'm curious to see what our early-season crops will look like at the market."
Shoppers will be able to see for themselves at the Boulder and Longmont Saturday markets, which both open on April 6 and run until November 23. Next up, the Saturday Union Station Farmers Market (run by the same organization, despite not being in Boulder County) will open on May 11 and run through October 26. And finally, the two-year-old Lafayette market begins June 6 and runs through September 26. Coppom says there are plenty of old favorites to look forward to, as well as some new additions, including Toats Oats oat milk, a new flower farm dubbed Butterfly Outpost, and offerings from Grains to Plains, a grain farm.
"We have more and more farmers experimenting with heritage grains, and some of our bakers have a real interest," says Coppom, mentioning Louisville's Moxie Bread Co., Babettes (which just moved to Longmont from Denver) and Kelly Whitaker, chef/owner of Basta and the Wolf's Tailor and founder of the Noble Grain Alliance. "I think we will continue to see that trend, but it will be slow growth, in my estimation, as it will take people a while to realize they can buy their flour at the market."
At a time when farmers' markets appear to be slowing down nationwide, according to NPR, Coppom says the BCFM has seen 7 to 8 percent growth each year. He points out that the data stated in NPR's article and from a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture fail to account for the difference between community markets, which primarily sell goods (such as crafts and wellness supplies), and true farmers' markets, which allow local farmers to sell produce, meats, eggs and dairy from their own farms.
"I think our markets continue to do well because we have real farmers growing the produce they are selling, and customers have real satisfaction going to the market," says Coppom. "I think our market and markets like ours offer authenticity in connecting people in local agriculture."
With four popular markets in the area, BCFM caters to different tastes. Coppom describes the Union Station market as attractive because of its urban and historic setting, while the Longmont market is more family-oriented and very open. The Boulder market, he adds, "Definitely reflects Boulder and has incredible people and absolute madness.
"Last year we didn't see an increase in the number of shoppers, but the amounts of what people are buying," he adds. "It appears we are seeing a growth in the number of people wanting to shop rather than just looking, and it's an exciting trend for us."
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While many of the farmers at the 2019 markets remain the same (Aspen Moon Farm, Cure Organic Farm, Mile High Fungi and Ollin Farms, for example), there will be new street-food vendors such as Woodgrain Bagels & Deli and Boulder Porridge Co., and old favorites such as Hinman's Bakery and Mercantile Dining & Provisions. There will also be a new lineup of chefs doing cooking demos at the Union Station market, although a list has not been finalized.
The BCFM has received a fresh infusion of cash in the form of a $9,472 Crush it Crusade grant from the Can'd Aid Foundation to pay for zero-waste equipment, EcoCycle training and new signs. There are also two new board members: Dana Faulk Query of the Big Red F Restaurant Group, and Krisan Christensen, owner of Farm N' Wild Wellspring in Boulder and president of the Flatirons Young Farmers Coalition.
To help celebrate the 2019 season, the Boulder and Longmont markets will run a "Welcome Back Bingo" game on Instagram. To play, visit the Boulder market between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. or the Longmont market between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on April 6, and complete five interactive tasks, taking pictures along the way. Tag @boulderfarmersmarket or @longmontfarmersmarket in your photos, and you will be entered to win $100 in market bucks. Call it seed money for the growing season to come.