Christian Toohey is a farmer and a member of the Boulder County Farmers Market board, and he’s looking forward to the opening of the first markets of the year in Boulder and Longmont on Saturday, April 2. These will run until November 19, and a regular Wednesday-evening market begins in Boulder on May 4 and runs till October 5. “We've recovered from last year's exertions and are excited about the promise of a new season,” Toohey says. “Every year is a new beginning; no matter what came before, farmers hope that this season will be the best yet. We love farming, and it means so much more for us to see the people who buy our produce and to know them as our friends. Those friendships are a real encouragement on difficult days when the weather is bearing down on us.”
For the first time, BCFM will also offer a regular market in Denver this year. It will run from June 4 to October 22 at Union Station.
Toohey, who grew up in Boulder, started gardening when he was twelve. “I enjoyed going to the farmers’ market, and I loved visiting my grandparents’ farm in Tennessee," he recalls. "My eighth-grade friends thought it was strange that I liked gardening so much, but I hoped that someday I could save enough money to buy a couple of acres and sell vegetables.
“I was six months away from graduate school in architecture in 2005 when my parents took me to see the farm they wanted to buy and asked if I’d come out and help run it. Of course I said yes,” he continues.
Toohey's father, who bales hay with him, is an architect and pastor; his mother, who helps run the vegetable operation, is a teacher, and his two siblings are musicians. Toohey himself now has his master’s degree in architecture. The family lives on their 38-acre farm in Hygiene, growing premium horse hay on 26 acres and certified organic vegetables, sold under the name Toohey & Sons, on two and a half.
The Tooheys will be bringing lettuce mix, arugula, Swiss chard, spinach and radishes — “if they're ready in time" — to the first market.
"The spinach has been in the field all winter, getting sweeter and sweeter under the snow in the cold temperatures,” Toohey says, adding that customers who arrive at the market early will find the best selection.
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Customers will also be able to linger over several other vegetable stands, including Red Wagon Farm, Cure Organic Farm, Aspen Moon and Oxford Gardens, as well as shop for honey, bread, jam, beef, pork, chicken and wild-caught salmon.
Like most small farmers, the Toohey family focuses on diversity, sustainability and polyculture rather than monocropping. “We're growing many of the same crops we grew last season, building on what we learned,” says Christian. “We're always trying new varieties to better match our climate and soil, and adding more as our chefs’ and market customers’ preferences change. We try to grow crops that stand out for their taste, tenderness, color and history — varieties that don’t do well with large-scale industrial food production and the shipping that comes with it.
“We’re amazed by how each day is unique, beautiful and challenging in its own way," he adds. "We’ve gained so much respect for the beauty and complexity of the creation — the soil, plants, microbes, insects, animals, weather, water and air — and we believe that the best way to approach farming is with humility, to help these beautiful systems and patterns work together as they were intended to do. Instead of taking control, as large commercial agriculture often does, we've come to see that these things are deeper than we can fully understand, and we're just caretakers of the land.”
The Boulder Farmers' Market (at 13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue) will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays beginning in April and from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays beginning in May. The Longmont market will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Boulder County Fairgrounds at 9595 Nelson Road. And the new Union Station market will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays starting in June.