People love to hear the stories behind the food they consume.
“It puts the personality back in food,” said Steve Ela, a fourth generation farmer with Colorado’s Ela Family Farms which got its start in 1907.
One of the best ways to hear these stories is from the famers themselves, and a local farmers market is a wonderful place to have such conversations, Ela said. Consumers get excited when they get to learn every detail about how the food is grown, and how it went from bloom on the farm to their family’s table, he said.
People love to explore different tastes and varieties, and for the farmers, Ela added, all the hard work they put into growing the food is rewarded when someone says, “`wow, that was the best peach I’ve ever eaten.’”
It is farmers market season again in Colorado, and the Denver area boats many different markets to explore — each with their own uniqueness and charm.
A relational, community experience
Peter and Margo Wanberg will be opening their City Park Farmers Market this year in the space that was formerly occupied by City Park Esplanade Fresh Market.
This will be the first year for the husband and wife team to run a farmers market, though the two have been vendors at various markets with Peter Wanberg’s Jubilee Roasting Co. coffee since 2017. Margo Wanberg is co-founder of 3 Sisters Honey.
“When you shop at farmers markets, you get a relational experience,” Peter Wanberg said. They are “something that bonds the community further.”
The City Park Farmers Market will feature food trucks and live music, and its unique entertainment includes a donation-based yoga class led by Big Power Yoga.
With the market, the Wanbergs have a goal to provide the fundamentals of what a farmers market can be — focusing on Colorado local and focusing on food, Wanberg said.
“We’ve really curated our selection of local producers, farmers and artisans to provide a food-focused experience for guests,” Wanberg said. “Local produce is the foundation of a farmers market and everything else we’re doing is built around that.”
Market shoppers will be able to browse at least 60 vendor booths each week whose businesses range from established brands to startups. Goods will include mostly consumable products — fruits and vegetables, dairy, baked goods, jams and sauces, for example — and a few that will offer goods such as botanical soaps, flowers or zero waste supplies.
All of the vendors are “passionate about growing food (and) using local and organic ingredients,” Wanberg said. He added that he and Margo are especially looking forward to being advocates for the local producers and offering market-goers the opportunity to not only shop for fresh food, but the opportunity to contribute to the local economy.
“We get to be champions for these local food producers,” Wanberg said. “By purchasing local, the dollars go directly from consumer to producer.”
Offering new inspirations for mealtimes
Considering what aspects are important to people when thinking about their ideal shopping experience, shopping at farmers markets can check a lot of those boxes, said Nicole Jarman, farmers market manager of the South Pearl Street Farmers Market.
There is a community aspect, Jarmen said, which is important to a lot of market-goers.
“We’re all craving that connection and community,” she added. “Historically, visiting your local farmers market each week means you get to see your neighbors.”
But also, Jarmen added, people typically want to support local businesses and food producers when they can. And still others shop at farmers markets for the healthier options of having a great selection of fresh food to choose from.
South Pearl Street, as a whole, is quite the destination place for people, Jarmen said. People enjoy spending some time at the farmers market in the earlier part of the day, then spending the afternoon browsing the unique small businesses and dining at the various restaurants.
This year’s farmers market boasts a mix of 140 vendors offering quite the variety of goods, Jarmen said.
“There are two very long blocks dedicated to the farmers market,” Jarmen said. “I don’t think there’s anything you won’t be able to find at the market this year.”
The South Pearl Street Farmers Market has been going on for a couple decades. It will feature food trucks, live entertainment and new this year is what’s being called the chef experience. This will provide people with new inspiration for their meals and cooking, Jarmen said.
Each week, a Front Range chef will be featured to write a recipe that can be made completely with items purchased from the South Pearl Street Farmers Market. The recipe will be available to the public prior to the weekly market on Sunday so people can shop for the items. Each Sunday evening, the featured chef will host a virtual cooking class, which will be available on the South Pearl Street Farmers Market’s website.
‘When the music came back’
Farmers markets truly are all about community, said Chris Burke, president of Colorado Fresh Markets-Cherry Creek.
People love getting out of the house to enjoy the warm weather, and the adventure of “seeing what’s there,” he said. And because they get to form relationships with the consumers, “the vendors enjoy it (farmers markets) just as much as anybody.”
The outdoor setting of farmers markets lends to them being one of the few venues that can currently offer live entertainment, so this year, people are especially looking forward to that, Burke said.
He added that it wasn’t until later in the season last year when the Cherry Creek farmers market was able to bring back its live music.
“When the music came back, it was such a warming feeling,” Burke said, adding that people were dancing and simply enjoying it in a socially-distanced manner.
The Cherry Creek farmers market is going into its 24th season. It will have food trucks, live entertainment and will boast hundreds — if not a few hundred or more — fresh items to shop for, from spring flowers to European cheeses, all by Colorado vendors. And many of these items are unique and/or not readily available in grocery stores, Burke said.
Colorado Fresh Markets-Cherry Creek offers a market on Saturdays as well as Wednesdays.
“Crops come in all week long,” Burke said. So “there’s a demand for it.”
Additionally, people working in the nearby area enjoy being able to grab a fresh bite to eat for their lunch on Wednesdays, Burke added.
More than an essential business
Last year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, farmers markets were deemed an essential business because of the fresh groceries and other goods that can be purchased at them, said Zach Martinucci, founder and owner of Rebel Bread which specializes in artisan breads and coffee shop pastries.
This year, especially as restrictions ease, farmers markets will be able to go back to offering the community-feel that is associated with farmers markets, and once again serve as local, social gathering spaces, he added.
“Farmers markets mean so much for the local business community,” Martinucci said. “For these five months each year, it is our opportunity to get to know our customers.”