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The growth of Colorado’s farmers markets

The interest in farmers markets in Colorado is at an all-time high, as many of its residents get extremely excited when farmers market season arrives each spring. After all, farmers markets provide the opportunity for growers and consumers to engage.Durango-FM

And over the last few years, many of the markets have extended their seasons into fall and winter by moving indoors. Farmers are extending their growing seasons with high tunnels, hoop houses and greenhouses to offer produce longer in Colorado.

“Consumers want to connect directly with farmers and ranchers to learn about where their food comes from and how it is produced,” said Wendy Lee White, marketing specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, markets division in Broomfield, CO. “Consumers not only want to engage with farmers and ranchers, but they enjoy the experience of attending a market. Going to a market is a fun activity that the entire family enjoys.”

Martha Sullins, board president of the Colorado Farmers Market Association in Fort Collins, CO, said data from USDA Ag Marketing Service shows that while the number of markets seems to have steadied, many of the 130 farmers markets in the state are reporting more customers than there have been in previous years. However, not every market keeps customer tallies so just how many people are going is unknown.

“Being a success takes having a consistently good product, good customer service skills and some creativity,” she said.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture recently released the 2017 Colorado Farm Fresh Directory, featuring more than 200 farms, ranches, roadside stands, u-picks and Community Supported Agriculture programs, as well as 100 farmers markets across the state. This can be downloaded in an app by visiting www.coloradoagriculture.com.

The state’s farmers markets offer a variety of Colorado grown, raised or processed products, with produce naturally leading the way. However, meats, manufactured foods and ready-to-eat foods are also a big hit at many of them. Some markets also offer wine, while others offer free entertainment, music, kids activities and informational seminars.

Colorado is well known for Palisade Peaches, Rocky Ford melons, Pueblo chiles and Olathe sweet corn, and these are in ample supply at many of the markets. Area farmers also grow a bounty of other produce items, including potatoes, lettuce, carrots, onions and apples.

“We have wonderful peaches in season, cherries, pears, melons, and abundant fresh vegetables. We specialize in sweet corn and potatoes too,” Sullins said. “You will also find specialty mushrooms. We can grow many vegetables under cover (in high tunnels and greenhouses), so that means people can enjoy fresh vegetables year-round.”