If one word could describe the last day of the 2018 Union Station Farmers' Market and the end of the fall growing season it would be "bittersweet," and just about everyone we talked to there on Saturday, October 20, used that phrase.
"It's always kind of bittersweet when that first freeze comes in, but once it happens it's a relief, because we're so tired," says Christian Toohey, owner of Boulder-based Toohey & Sons Organic, whose farm got the first deep freeze last Sunday when temps hit 12 degrees. "We are still farming a little, but a lot of our work now is end-of-season cleanup."
Not that anyone would ascertain the growing season was over by the looks of the market. The weather proved perfect, sunny and warm enough for a T-shirt in the sun or light sweater in the shade. A solid blue sky with nary a rain cloud in sight canopied the day, and enough bright produce was for sale that it was hard to picture that first frost Toohey mentioned. You could even say it was the perfect time to be at the farmers' market, and based on the meandering crowd, others agreed.
All around the market, shoppers picked up hearty winter squash, which gleamed in shades of orange, white, yellow and green. It was the right time for apples, too, and the samples given out by Ela Family Farms proved sweet and juicy. Peppers were in abundance at stands run by Thistle Whistle Farm and Lost Creek Farm, and came in all varietals, heat levels, colors and sizes, such as himo togarashi frying peppers, aji Colorados and cayennes.
As customers came and went from his stand, Josh Olsen of ACRES at Warren Tech peddled celery root and Georgia candy roaster squashes. He, too, said he found the last day to be a little sad but also a relief. "We all look forward to the end of the season, but are also already thinking about next year and how to refine the process," he says.
At the True West Tacos cart, the 2018 farmers' market has proven a real boon to the business.
"It was dope, and it's amazing how many people came in from the A Line and didn't know the market was going on," says Brady Berno, who worked the True West stand all season. "You get a two-hour wait for Snooze and people are like, 'I don't want to do that' and would come get a breakfast taco."
The year was so good, says Berno, that as long as they are asked back, True West Tacos plans to have a stand again next year, even though the venture just opened up a more permanent spot inside American Bonded in RiNo. Growth on all fronts appears to be the major theme of 2018.
"This season was pretty good, and we got to make new relationships and meet the community," says Marcus McCauley of McCauley Family Farms in Longmont. "There's a lot of excitement growing about the market, but we need to get the word out even more."
Elyse Wood, operations manager for Boulder County Farmers Markets (which runs the Union Station market) agrees. This was the first year the Union Station Farmers' Market was self-sustaining. When it started in 2016, it had the backing of the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program, and this was the first season the venture did without that help. So far, it's working well.
"We want to continue to become ingrained in the Denver community," says Wood. "Slow growth is a real thing, and we are in it for the long haul and plan to continue to grow."
Come 2019, we will see the farmers' market again in Union Station, with spring's freshness and variety. Until then, you can still shop at the Saturday Boulder Farmers' Market from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Saturday Longmont market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., both until November 17.