“They pick them as ripe as they can for us, but if they pick them too ripe, they won’t survive the drive,” Jessica Deden says to an Incredible Edibles Farm Fresh Stand customer trying to find the best Palisade peach. Behind her, her husband, Steve, taps watermelons, choosing the ripest one to hand to another market-goer.
The Dedens have been operating the Incredible Edibles Farm Fresh Stand for 22 years, sourcing their products directly from Colorado farmers to stock their small stand at 1950 South Parker Road with freshly harvested produce. The couple has always had the intention of bringing “the best to the table,” Jessica says. It’s a goal that has created a network between farmers and customers, with the Dedens standing at the center.
Steve, who samples all the produce before it's offered to customers, says that connection is the reason they started the stand two decades ago. “I like fresh produce. I actually taste-test the food,” he adds. Deden has never been a farmer himself, but that love of good food has propelled the business to a point where he says that these days “many of my best friends are farmers.”
The network of farmers the Dedens works with spreads across the state. “Certain farmers are really good at growing certain things,” Jessica explains. The couple will often buy cucumbers, cabbage, pickles and squash from DiTomaso Farms in Pueblo, and they get apples from Colon Orchards in Cañon City. Knapp Farm, in Rocky Ford, specializes in melons, and Musso Farms, also in Pueblo, sells green chiles.
But the deciding factor for what the Dedens purchase is availability. They buy based on what can be harvested that day. Steve often texts requests to farmers the night before so that produce can be picked first thing in the morning. Their own days start around 4 or 5 a.m. so the stand can open by 11. Incredible Edibles is open every day of the week from August through October 1. These are the two months “when Colorado harvest gets into full swing,” according to Jessica.
She says this while a continuous flow of customers peruses vegetables and weighs fruit around the four corners of the small stand. There’s okra, eggplant, pears, apples and at least three varieties of summer squash. One regular customer holds up his box of tomatoes and proudly tells Jessica that he’s going to spend the day making and canning homemade sauce.
Another customer orders a basket of chile, which the Dedens roast on site in basket, half-bushel, federal-bushel and farmer’s-bushel sizes (a distinction familiar to green chile fans) that customers choose based on spice level — from mild Pueblo Anaheims to XXX-hot Pueblo dynamites.
And as the air fills with the smell of roasting chiles, Jessica notes that they’ve “watched a lot of [their] customers grow up” and come back with kids of their own.
“When we started doing this, it was a lot of trial and error,” she says, “but the more we started getting to know the neighborhood down here and the farmers, after the first few years, it just became a total norm for us, and I don’t know that we’d know what to do with ourselves if we were doing anything different.”
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