Farmers' Markets

Pay-What-You-Can Farmers' Market Provides Local Produce Access in a Food Desert

Huerta Urbana 2gen Farm Incubator program participants and staff at the June 10 opening.
Huerta Urbana/Focus Points Family Resources Center
Huerta Urbana 2gen Farm Incubator program participants and staff at the June 10 opening.
The pay-what-you-can farmers' market from the Focus Points Family Resource Center is back in the Globeville/Elyria-Swansea neighborhood for its third year this summer, rebranded as the Huerta Urbana Farmers Market (HUFM). The market will be open every Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. through October on the Focus Points campus at 2501 East 48th Avenue.

HUFM bucks the farmers' market reputation of being overpriced and only for the well-off. Instead, it embraces a focus on access to fresh produce from local resources. Offering fresh vegetables, baked goods, local honey, prepared meals, arts and crafts, cut flowers and information from local resources like the Denver Public Library and Kaiser Permanente, everything is available on a pay-what-you-can basis (which includes $0). This year, market-goers can also use WIC and SNAP benefits.

The market is a part of Huerta Urbana 2Gen Farm Incubator, a Focus Points program that was created to provide greater access to fresh produce in the food desert of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea by training families from the area in farm production and distribution. Program participants learn and practice their agriculture skills at raised-bed gardens and in-ground beds at the Focus Points campus and community growing spaces throughout the Denver metro area. They earn a stipend and graduate from the program with a Colorado State University Beginner Market Farmer Training Certificate.
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Christian Amaro, Huerta Urbana participant, bagging up a spinach donation from TUF (The Urban Farm).
Huerta Urbana/Focus Points Family Resources Center
“This market is definitely unique and different," says Seynabou Sohai, Huerta Urbana’s program manager. “We’re going to be offering some of the same activities as typical markets, but it’s focused on being accessible and meeting people where they are at. Typical markets can sometimes come across as exclusive to certain parts of the community.”

Throughout the twenty-week market run, HUFM will also host workshops on beekeeping, preserving fruits and veggies, trauma-informed yoga, seed saving and other food-focused learning opportunities. Workshop details, including how to sign up, will be announced online and on Facebook and Instagram pages. The Athena Project, a local nonprofit that celebrates and advocates for artists, has curated a schedule of local artists that will be performing at each of the Friday markets as well.

Every vendor at the market receives reimbursement up to the full asking price of the products sold so that, as a small business, they don’t lose profits. For each market, that usually adds up to $500-$700, which is funded through grants, donations and any market-goers that pay above asking price. “Serving our community with one of the most basic necessities — healthy food — is a passion and a duty of HUFM, so serving from within and working with the community is important and, overall, more aligned with sustainable growth,” says Sohai.
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Huerta Urbana 2Gen Farm Incubator program participant Angel Meza works the market.
Huerta Urbana/Focus Points Family Resources Center

In its third year, the market seems to have found its permanent home on the Focus Points campus, according to Sohai. Last year it was located with another Focus Points program, Comal Heritage Food Incubator, at 3455 Ringsby Court. The move will make the market more easily accessible to residents. “To us, it feels like we are finally home at Focus Points,” she notes. “We have finally grown up and established our identity. We are now located in the heart of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, and the barrier of transportation has been greatly reduced.”

At its first market on June 10, it served more families in one day than it did in a whole month last year; vendors distributed 499 pounds of vegetables that afternoon.

Although there is a long way to go before the neighborhoods of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea are no longer food deserts, residents are set to get their first grocery store since the 1960s later this year: Noir Market, from the East Denver Food Hub, a program of the East Denver Food Sovereignty Initiative. It's set to open this fall and is hosting its pop-up market every other Saturday at 2111 East 48th Avenue, close to the Huerta Urbana market.
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Local business S&D Creations and the East Denver Food Hub at the June 10 market.
Huerta Urbana/Focus Points Family Resources Center
“[Noir Market] will offer another stream of getting healthy food out to the community,” says Sohai, adding that Focus Points looks forward to collaborating. “Huerta Urbana 2gen Farm Incubator is planning on working with the collaboration surrounding Noir to offer our fresh fruits and vegetables to the market when it comes to full fruition.”

This year, Focus Points also introduced its CSA, Veggies Valet. This opportunity is not pay-what-you can, but for $400-$800, participants can sign up to receive a CSA box of produce grown and harvested by the Huerta Urbana program. Subscriptions for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly pick-up at the market are available.

Focus Points, which along with Huerta Urbana offers a number of educational and health-centric services to families to increase financial stability, just announced a fundraising campaign to accommodate a growing need and replace funding that was recently lost. The nonprofit says that since COVID hit, the need for its services has increased 65 percent, and it recently had to close its early education programming and workforce centers because of the decrease in funds. Donations can be made on the Focus Points website.

The Huerta Urbana Farmers Market is located at 2501 East 48th Avenue and is open Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m. Learn more online or through Facebook and Instagram pages.