The Boulder Farmers' Market gets a chilly start

It's not easy weighing mesclun mix while wearing thick mittens.

But that's one of the things you learn to do when you live in this crazy state of Colorado. Saturday, April 4, was the first day of the state's preeminent farmers' market (rooted in Boulder, of course), a day when I expect only the most sunny of suns, the most flowery of flowers and the most hippest of hippies.

All I got at the market was the hippies. And while at least the Front Range didn't get the heavy, wet, spring snow promised, either, it was still a chilling way to start the Boulder Farmers' Market season.

Only a few truly devoted market-goers showed up to look at a limited number of stands.The knife sharpener was there, as was Udi's and the tamale stand. But only a couple of farms were represented, selling everything from cucumbers to mesclun lettuce to parsnips. And that was it: three vegetables.

But the pickings will no doubt improve along with the weather as the market -- located at 1900 13th Street in Boulder -- carries on twice a week through mid-October, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.

"We have twenty new farms that have joined us this last year," explains market director Mark Menagh. "So you can expect to find more eggs at the markets this year, pasteurized cow and goat milk, a larger variety of cheeses...and unique products like crayfish." There will also be more starter plants, already acclimatized and from seeds that flourish in our soils, so that you can grow your own.

"The Boulder County Farmers' Markets are producer-only markets," Menagh continues, "so next to the farmers, we invite some other food producers that are entrepreneurial in nature. Most of the packaged food producers are returning, but we are adding a specialty organic chocolate, an organic bread baker, and many of our merchants are adding new products to their mix. Because of the seasonality of produce production, farmers come and go during the season, but there are 150 merchants selling at our markets."

With any luck, Menagh adds, the Boulder Farmers' Market will also sow the seeds of environmental awareness. "Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies historically have facilitated a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands," he says. "It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news."

So consider that as you peruse the possibilities at this week's farmer's market. Me, I'll be thinking about the strawberries you can get here in mid-July.

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