It's been a rough year for local farmers. Late spring snows wiped out a lot of early crops, especially fruit, and then -- when they'd started to recover and at the height of the growing and selling season -- came the flood. Some acres of crops were completely wiped out, infrastructure was damaged, soil was over-saturated, harvesting was delayed, ditch systems were devastated. Most farmers still had some produce to sell, but markets in both Boulder and Longmont were canceled on September 14 -- and these markets, along with farmstands and CSAs, represent a huge part of a farmer's annual earnings.See also: Best Farmers' Market 2012 -- Boulder Farmers' Market
Still, you wouldn't have known there was anything wrong at yesterday's market, the last Wednesday Boulder Farmers' Market of the season. The Oxford Gardens stand boasted bunches of the farm's famous carrots. Farmer John Ellis was his usual calm and philosophical self as he set out bags of flour and jars of jam. Ollin Farms made its last Boulder appearance (it will continue to sell in Longmont) with eggplants, tomatoes and an astounding array of peppers. Masonville Orchards added Golden Supreme apples (so crisp and sweet) to its ever-changing line up. Fior di Latte gave out tastes of a new gelato: sweet corn, which was interesting and muted, with the corn taste coming on subtle and late, and a pear sherbet with a beautifully rounded. ripe fruit flavor. Also my current favorite (my favorite of its gelatos shifts week by week): white chocolate mint.
Munson still had succulent sweet corn. Ironically, the flood waters actually encouraged the corn stalks, which have deep roots and love water. They can stand a light frost, too, but when temperatures fall below around 29 degrees, as they're predicted to do tomorrow night, the corn gives up. I imagine the folks at Munson will pick on Friday and still have corn for sale this Saturday. After that, it's anyone's guess.
Aspen Moon is the first farm I can remember bringing raspberries to market in any quantity, because these fruits are fiddly to pick and hard to transport without their turning into jam; there were still boxes and boxes of them Wednesday. Saturday will probably be the last day for raspberries, too.
And for so many other things. Right now, stands are overflowing with tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini, green beans, peppers, watermelons and eggplants of many colors. (If you haven't tasted Toohey and Sons's Violette Di Firenze -- a huge, delicately lilac-colored eggplant from Italy, with creamy flesh and not a trace of bitterness, look for it Saturday. If it's there, it'll probably be the last of the season.) So you want to stock up for canning, freezing, drying and just plain gorging before all the soft and perishable produce is gone.
And keep stocking up to get through the winter over the next few weeks. There are seven more Saturday markets in Boulder and five in Longmont; farmers will be bringing bring cabbage, potatoes, onions, carrots and winter squashes tastier than anything you can find at the supermarket. It's a virtuous circle: You do yourself a favor when you buy and you also help our farmers. And local agriculture, as most of us know, helps everyone who wants a clean, healthful, safe, reliable and delicious food supply. So -- as George W. Bush so memorably advised us after 9/11 -- get out there and shop.
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And if you'd like to help by doing more than shopping, check out Local Food Shift Group, which is partnering with the Community Foundation and the Boulder County Farmer's Markets to help farmers.