Supporting local is in Denver's DNA

Farmers market season has arrived in metro area

Christy Steadman
csteadman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/28/22

People love the little treasures they can find at farmers markets. Shopping at farmers markets allows “the customer to stumble across these products that they can’t get anywhere else,” said …

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Supporting local is in Denver's DNA

Farmers market season has arrived in metro area

Posted

People love the little treasures they can find at farmers markets.

Shopping at farmers markets allows “the customer to stumble across these products that they can’t get anywhere else,” said Chris Burke of Colorado Fresh Markets. “You can always find something new.”

25 years at Cherry Creek

Burke and his wife, Michele, run the Colorado Fresh Markets, which offer markets in a number of metro-area communities. Founded in 1997, the Cherry Creek location, at First Avenue and University Boulevard, was the couple’s first Colorado Fresh Market to open. This summer it is celebrating 25 years of serving the community.

“We love supporting everything local,” Burke said. “It’s in our DNA.”

Specializing in local-only fare, the Cherry Creek Fresh Market offers shoppers a wide array of fresh produce at the Cherry Creek Fresh Market. The Burkes work with about 30 farms across the state.

A crop calendar is available on the Colorado Fresh Markets’ website so people can check what is in season before they shop. People can also sign up to receive the Colorado Fresh Markets newsletter, which will provide market updates on product availability and highlight different favorites found at the market.

Other items to be discovered include a mix of artisanal crafts, home and garden, boutique and vintage finds. Amenities of the market include free parking during both the Saturday and Wednesday markets, food trucks, a café area and live music. Each Saturday market will feature two or three local musicians with genres ranging from singer-songwriter to rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop to country to provide some examples.

When the market is in town, that big parking lot transforms into a fun, vibrant atmosphere, Burke said. Between the farmers, vendors and shoppers, Burke said, everyone “enjoys that sense of community.”

‘The smile stays on’

Kurt Jones of Denver’s Rosedale neighborhood has been part of Denver’s music scene since roughly 1985, when he moved to the area. He will be performing at a few farmers markets this year, including the Cherry Creek Fresh Market and the South Pearl Street Farmers Market, but his main farmers market gig this year is the University Hills Farmers Market, which is located at the University Hills Plaza Shopping Center, 2500 S. Colorado Blvd. There, he will be performing nearly every weekend during the farmers market’s season.

While Jones has a project of original music with west Denver resident Jerry Lee McGuire called Racefans, his gigs at the farmers markets will be Jones performing as a one-man band.

He describes the sound as “sunshine music” that will provide a “happy, outgoing vibe.”

“I enjoy the happy, melody-driven stuff,” Jones said. “I love seeing the little kids dancing, and the parents taking their pictures. I’m looking forward to putting some smiles on faces.”

He may even show up in some fun performance attire at the University Hills Farmers Market, he said. A gold blazer, a gold hat and spray-painted gold shoes are in the works for this year.

The blazer might have to come off if it gets too hot during a performance, Jones said. “But the smile will stay on.”

A to Z shopping

There are a number of reasons why people love shopping at farmers markets, said Robin Singer-Starbuck, the market manager for the University Hills Farmers Market.

“Farmers markets are destinations — somewhere to go and something to do. And it’s social,” Singer-Starbuck said. “Plus, people appreciate supporting small businesses and finding something unique.”

Singer-Starbuck grew up in the University Hills area so one of the joys she gets from running the market is giving back to a community she is deeply rooted in, she said.

At the University Hills Farmers Market, shoppers will have access to an “A to Z shopping experience,” Singer-Starbuck said. There will be a variety of food products ranging from fruits and vegetables to honey and granola. There will also be a chocolatier and ranchers selling their products.

Non-food items include health and wellness products such as CBD products, apothecary and skincare; artesian crafts such as embroidery, woodworking, jewelry and pottery; and home and garden, such as fresh flowers, seedlings and plants.

Additional amenities include Jones’ live music, free parking, food trucks and other ready-to-eat items such as bakery products, coffee and tamales.

“People can find a great selection, each (item) with an authentic story,” Singer-Starbuck said. “Whether it be a food artisan or a craft artisan, they love to take that story home with them and share it with friends and family.”

The main thing is flavor

Being a fourth-generation farmer is a lot to live up to.

“Back in my great-grandfather’s time, everyone was a farmer,” said Debora Palizzi of Brighton’s Palizzi Farm, which got its start in 1929. “Those who are native to Colorado are familiar with the farms.”

Known for its sweet corn — but also offering a variety of products such as baby carrots, spinach, okra and much more — Palizzi Farm will be at a number of metro-area farmers markets this year.

The family also runs a seasonal farm stand, which opened in April and will operate until mid-October. The farm stand offers a range of products in addition to what the family sells at the farmers markets — pies, cider, farm fresh eggs, pickled vegetables and much more. Though offering farm tours is not part of the family’s business model, they are always happy to provide a tour of the farm or let people go out and pick their own vegetables or fruit, Palizzi said.

The items that are sold at the farmers markets are always going to be fresh, Palizzi said. Everything is picked the day before — or the day of, in the case of herbs — it is brought to the market.

People love having access to produce that was grown here in Colorado, Palizzi said.

“The main thing for people is flavor,” she added. “It’s incredible how fresh flavors taste.”

'We don’t miss a week’

Potager Restaurant & Wine Bar’s staff shops at local farmers markets every weekend to purchase to items for the restaurant’s farm-to-table concept.

“We don’t miss a week,” said Chef Paul Warthen, the chef/owner of Potager, which is located at 1109 Ogden St. in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. “The food we buy that day, we serve in the restaurant that night.”

Farmers markets provide so much to the community, Warthen said, adding that shopping at farmers markets is an enriching experience.

“It’s a nice way to spend a morning,” he said.

Warthen is one of many professional chefs who will be giving a chef demo at the City Park Farmers Market this year. His day is Oct. 8.

The chef demos “will further their (shoppers’) knowledge and capabilities,” Warthen said.

Not only will they inspire people to cook with items they can find at the farmers market, providing people with these additional kitchen skills is one way to help everyone create less food waste, Warthen said. Although exactly what Warthen’s demonstration will be is still in planning, an example he provided of using kitchen skills to reduce food waste would be educating people on four different ways to use broccoli leaves, rather than discarding them, Warthen said.

Planting seeds

The City Park Farmers Market, located at City Park Esplanade at East Colfax Avenue and Columbine Street, has so much in store for its visitors this year.

In addition to the monthly chef demos, the market will feature live music, a weekly run club with Go Forever Racing and a donation-based yoga class with Big Power Yoga. Additional amenities include food trucks and food tents with ready-to-eat items and the grassy esplanade with a central fountain where people are welcome to hang out or picnic.

The City Park Farmers Market is a food-focused, local-only farmers market. Product to be found at the market includes meats, eggs, bread, vegetables, fruit, sauces, jams and much more.

“Colorado has a seasonality to it. It’s difficult to be a farmer here,” said Peter Wanberg, who along with his wife, Margo, launched the City Park Farmers Market last year. “But these farmers (and vendors) are top-notch.”

It is important to the Wanbergs that smaller farms have “an opportunity to grow in a scalable way and connect directly with members of the community,” states a news release.

“We want to make market entry accessible, regardless of a producer’s acreage, team size or output,” Margo Wanberg said in the news release. “Colorado’s climate and economy means there are a lot of inherent risks and challenges for farmers. Participating in a farmers market shouldn’t be one of those.”

This also pertains to shoppers — the City Park Farmers Market accepts Colorado’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and this year is accepting the program’s Double Up Food Bucks; as well as partnering with the local chapter of Colorado WIC, which is a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children.

Farmers markets are a great place to build community, but people also particularly enjoy shopping at them because farmers markets provide access to a lot of local products all in one place, Peter Wanberg said.

“There is a ton of desire to interact with local farmers and producers,” he said.

The City Park Farmers Market will provide the same community feel as it did last year, but it will feature an expanded vendor lineup. Last year, it offered about 60 Colorado-based food producers, farmers and agriculture-based brands. Many of them will be returning this year to make up the approximate 90 vendors this year will offer.

The Wanbergs are excited for their second farmers market season.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the seeds we planted last year grow and flourish,” Peter Wanberg said.

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