After many delays opening its various Boulder County Farmers' Markets during the pandemic, BCFM will finally launch its weekly Union Station Farmers' Market this Saturday, June 13. But things will be different this year: You'll need a reservation, and there will be fewer vendors, no live music or cooking demos, no pets and no tastings. Despite the changes, it's worth a trip to buy from the lineup of great farmers.
"Customers will enjoy a smaller selection of vendors specifically chosen for offering popular staple products; think cozy neighborhood market," says Elyse Wood, BCFM operations and community manager. "We believe the market will be perfect for local vegetables, meat and baked goods."
The new health and safety measures were put in place by BCFM, who worked with its partners and the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment to come up with a good plan. No farmers' markets in the metro area are offering food tastings or live entertainment, and the number of vendors has been reduced to keep stalls at least six feet apart and so customers can shop without being on top of each other. However, the reservation system is unique to the Boulder County Farmers' Markets, which include locations in Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont and Denver (though the Lafayette market is not open yet).
"The reservation system has been tried in Boulder and Longmont, and we've seen success in it helping manage density at market," says Wood. "We are also finding that the people that come out are looking to shop and support their local growers."
Expect one entry and exit point and a one-way traffic arrangement to help regulate the flow of visitors. Woods says there will be a small line at the entrance to keep the amount of people capped at two per vendor, so roughly 24 customers will be allowed in at a time.
"We are asking customers to make their shopping trips quick; ten minutes would be ideal," adds Wood, who says the organization wants the market to be more of a grocery stop than a cultural event for now. "This will help us serve everyone who wants to shop the market."
Confirmed vendors include Acres at Warren Tech, Bolder Chip Company, Croft Family Farm, Happy Leaf Kombucha, Hinman's Bakery, Highland Honey, Micro Farms, Mile High Fungi, Pappardelle's Pasta, Willow Creek Meats, Il Porcellino Salumi, Kiowa Valley Organic, and Mercantile Dining + Provisions, which will sell food on its patio.
"Besides the obvious changes of social distancing and the new reservations system, it really isn't [that different]," says chef Paul Reilly, who co-owns Beast + Bottle and Coperta and is on the BCFM's chefs' council. "We are still planning on doing a majority of our pick-ups for vegetables and fruit, and I'm really looking forward to getting back down there ASAP."
There's also a new perk for the 2020 season at Union Station: the Chef's Box.
"It came about very organically as we talked through what could replace the chef demo booth for the 2020 season," says Reilly. "We turned to the market's chef council and mentioned an idea for some at-home or in-house Instagram live cooking demos with farmers' market ingredients."
The idea for the chef's box came from chef Alex Seidel, owner of Fruition and Mercantile, who is on the council, too. Each box contains the fresh ingredients you need to cook a meal put together by a different chef each week, starting with Reilly. Once you buy a box and bring it home, you can follow along with the online videos to cook a delicious seasonal meal. Order the box from the online platform BCFM2Go, then pick yours up at the market of your choice. Each week the featured chef will have a new recipe ready for you to try.
And if you don't score a reservation for the market, you can always pick up a produce box every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Beast + Bottle, where Reilly has been setting up a farm stand in partnership with Longmont's Ollin Farms. Each $32 box is filled with whatever is in season from the farm, and you can add on other products as well. The program, says Reilly, has been well received, so he will keep it up through the season. Order and pay for a box on the Beast + Bottle website each Tuesday through Thursday (by 5 p.m.) for contactless pick-up on Saturdays.
Visit the Union Station Farmers' Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday after you reserve your spot on Eventbrite. The model that's in place right now may change down the line, but for now, this is how the BCFM is shaping the 2020 season.
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