It's that time of the year again.
More than a dozen farmers markets are opening across the Denver metro area, bringing with them a bounty of offerings such as farm-fresh produce, handcrafted soaps and even ... giant snakes?
Some markets are already up and running, such as the Saturday market at the Southwest Plaza in Jefferson County or the Sunday market at the Highlands Ranch Town Center.
“It’s a happening thing to do," said Bodhi Allen, social media manager for Metro Denver Farmers' Market, the oldest collection of markets in the metro area. "The social aspects are part of the whole thrill of it."
Formed more than 45 years ago, Metro Denver Farmers' Market is run by a coalition of longstanding Colorado farms and includes the markets at Southwest Plaza and Highlands Ranch as well as ones in Lakewood, Littleton and Commerce City.
Each market offers more than 30 vendors and sees hundreds of patrons. Allen said the markets' success hinges on the relationships vendors built with the community.
“People are looking for something fresher than the grocery store," Allen said. “Over the years, customers build relationships with these farmers and these vendors, and they trust us."
Alan Mazzotti, owner of Mazzotti's Farm in Hudson, has been a leader with the Metro Denver Farmers' Market group for years. His father was an original founder, Mazzotti said, during a time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture was sponsoring local farmers to push their products through more urban markets.
“I love talking with the people," Mazzotti said. "I have customers from day one that still come to the market today."
Mazzotti said he offers "a little bit of everything” from his roughly 80-acre farm. But urged market-goers to be patient as much of the highly sought-after produce, such as corn and peaches, won't come into season until later this summer, around July and August.
And while some vendors offer a variety of produce from in-state and out, Mazzotti said his items are strictly Colorado grown. That can cause some sacrifices, Mazzotti said, such as having to cut-down on corn stock given this year's already dire drought.
“The water situation is going to be a big problem," Mazzotti said, though he is hopeful that through his partnership with other farmers there will still be enough to go around at the market.
Allen, the social media manager for Denver Metro, said it's a reminder that market seasons are often a great unknown.
"We’re at the whim of the elements in terms of how successful the season is," she said.
Jeremy Becker, co-owner of OLN Markets, offers a variety of produce grown in Colorado as well as outside states, such as Arizona, Texas, California and Washington.
"These are all places we've been and met people — we have connections all over," Becker said.
And it's not just fruits and vegetables that customers can expect from these markets. Vendors selling artisanal items such as handmade bath products, local wine and decorative plants are also present.
Carol Campbell, whose company Cecolors and Company can be found Sundays at the Highlands Ranch market at the town center, hand makes hundreds of bars of soap each week.
Originally a hobby of her husband's, soap making is something Campbell fell in love with and has been doing for about 25 years. Being an artist as well, Campbell's products, embued with subtle spectrums of color, are each wrapped in strips of watercolor-painted paper.
"I love the farmers market," Campbell said. "I get to see my regulars every week, and I also meet new people every week who then become regulars."
Depending on when patrons choose to visit the market at Southwest Plaza, they may run into a 40-pound reticulated python, the largest snake in the world.
Mason Stiegera, who founded the Littleton-based Righteous Reptile Rescue, will often bring various reptiles and amphibians to the market as the weather becomes warmer. Along with just wanting them to have some fresh air, the reptiles and amphibians are also open to adopt as Stiegera's rescue center is constantly searching for new homes.
Markets will run until mid- to late fall, with some closing as early as September and others as late as November.
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