It’s a beautiful day harkening the coming of Spring. I am trying to contain my excitement though, knowing March and April are our snowiest months. Even so, it isn’t too long before the outdoor farmer’s markets will begin. We have just two more Winter Markets left. The last Winter Market is scheduled for April 5th.
I am so grateful for the Winter Market to take us through the dark season. That being said, there is nothing like cruising through a parking lot filled to the brim with fresh food. That festive quality in the air, a celebration of all the abundance our community has to offer.
In 2012 the USDA had 7,894 markets listed in their National Directory of Farmer’s Markets. In 2013 that list increased 3.6% to 8,144. In Northern Colorado alone we have about a 1/2 dozen options, and that only counts those close to Fort Collins. If you count Estes Park and Steamboat Springs and some other mountain areas or the plains, that number increases.
The markets in Northern Colorado are loaded with amazing variety. Of course we have the wonderful veggies. But there is so much more. You can come very close to getting all your grocery needs from fruit, bread, cheese, chicken, pork, lamb, beef, eggs, juice, pasta, pasta sauce and BBQ sauce, salsa, fresh roasted coffee, honey, herbs, mushrooms, soap, dog biscuits, et cetera et cetera. We are truly lucky in our little corner of the world to have access to so many amazing food providers. And all this, it will come before you know it.
Here is the breakdown, in order of when they start. The Northern Colorado season opens with:
Drake Road Farmer’s Market Saturday, April 19th from 10 am to 2 pm, located in the parking lot on the northwest corner of W. Drake and Worthington.
CAMC Fort Collins Famer’s Market Sunday May 4, 11 am to 3 pm and Wednesday June 11, 11 am to 3 pm, located on Harmony Road and Lemay in the Ace Hardware parking lot.
CAMC Loveland Farmer’s Market Tuesday May 6, 11 am to 3 pm, located on HWY 287 in the Hobby Lobby parking lot.
Larimer County Farmer’s Market Saturday May 17th, 8 am to noon, located in the parking lot of Larimer County Courthouse on 200 Oak Street in Old Town Fort Collins.
** Greeley’s winter market goes through April on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays located at 508 8th Avenue from 9 am to noon.
Northern Colorado Farmer’s Market Sundays, May, 10 am – 2 pm. 3522 West County Rd. 54G, LaPorte (at Me Oh My Pie)
As always, enjoy the bounty!
And for you farmers, many of the markets are still accepting applications for this season! But they fill up fast!
It takes a lot to write the blog, searching out content, visiting and interviewing interesting people and trying out lots of amazing farm fresh goodness. Yup. It’s a lot of work, but someone has to do it. We couldn’t do it without our sponsors. Well, we sort of could, but as you all know, it takes a village, or at the very least one rockin’ community in Northern Colorado. Support from our sponsors helps keep this well oiled machine of bloggers cruising along without having to worry about crashing sites and all the fun background stuff that comes together to allow me to talk about what I love with folks who share the same interests and passions.
And you know there are quite a few of us at the network talking about all things Fort Collins. What we don’t want to have to do is charge folks for subscriptions to our content. We want to share it freely. That’s where our wonderful sponsors come in. They pay so you don’t have to. Great deal right?
If you ever visit any of our sponsors because they support Farming Fort Collins, or any of our network blogs, let them know! Check out their websites, visit their shops or restaurants, and call on them when you need their services. Share the local love and support your neighbors.
Now, with that said, I want to send a big thank you to the U.S. Career Institute for sponsoring Farming Fort Collins! If you haven’t checked out their degree and certifications options, I recommend it. Maybe you’re looking for the next right thing, a career change or to start your own business. Sometimes we need to set course on a new direction. USCI has a variety of options to choose from that fit in nicely with our busy lives.
What I expect is one of the more popular programs is the massage therapy certification. The academic portion of the program can be completed in as little as four months! Need more time to finish? That’s okay. The program is flexible and self-paced. Complete the academic portion and receive a Letter of Academic Achievement. Want to take that education further? Sit for the national exam or participate in USCI’s program, you can attend their 200 hour of hands on training in our beautiful home state of Colorado under the careful tutelage of credentialed massage therapy instructors. You can even use your military education benefits.
You can learn Swedish massage, sports massage and more, including energy techniques and aromatherapy. Just thinking about it reminds me it’s time for a tune up with my favorite massage therapist.
And if you need to practice, I know plenty of farmers who spend some long days in the field working some seriously sore and tired muscles. I’m sure they would be open to bartering in the name of helping someone pursue their dreams!
If you’ve read this blog for a while then you are probably familiar with The Growing Project. Great organization. Great message. Check out this previous post to learn more about what they do in our community!
Tonight, March 6, TGP is hosting a great event. The Food For Thought Film Festival is a fun, community event to raise funds for their programs. Starting at 7:00 pm, scheduled through 10:00 pm, they will be showing two short and provocative films, Dive! and PlanEAT. Each film will be followed by a panel discussion. The event will take place at CB Potts Tap House on West Elizabeth in Fort Collins and tickets are $20 ($15 for students). Space is limited, so make sure you reserve your spot!!
The schedule is as follows: 7:00 pm – doors open, 7:15 – showing of PlanEAT, 7:50 – panel discussion, 8:30 – showing of Dive!, 9:30 – panel discussion. Tickets should be purchased in advance here.
So if you haven’t made plans for your Thursday evening, here’s a great time for a great cause! Tell them Erica sent you.
Yesterday I went to the CSA Fair at the Opera Galleria. For a snowy day, it was a pretty good turn out. Seventeen farms and local businesses were on hand to educate folks on community supported agriculture and the virtues of their farm products. The pictures in this post are just a few of the farmers I met there. As I have said before, we are blessed in Northern Colorado to be surrounded by such abundance and diversity.
I had a great conversation with one of my favorite local farmers. We talked about CSA’s and how it really isn’t your only option to choose and eat local. You can support our wonderful farms by choosing local options from the menu of your favorite restaurants, purchase directly from the farm stands and the farmers markets, or choose the local options at your grocery store or neighborhood market. The CSA is a great option as well, but their are several things to consider to make it a succesful choice for you and your family.
If you are marinating on the idea of whether or not to purchase a CSA, it serves you to understand the basic premise. You pay for your food in advance so the farmer has the start up funds to begin the season. Otherwise, they are staking the upfront costs for months before they see a return. Those lovely greens we start getting in April and May, they are growing right now. The plant starts going into the fields in May, they are being planted in greenhouses and hoop houses all over the Front Range now. So much work happens before the markets and the CSA starts showering you with food. So, your part as a CSA member is making that early stage a little less stressful. It also helps a farmer to project what they need to plant and how much, with less room for waste. The market is already established. Then, as a member, you either receive a credit from the farm to use on your terms, or you get a box of food each week based on what’s available and in season. Love the concept.
So, with that said, and an assumption that you desire to bring more local food into your diet, is a CSA the best option? You can figure that out by asking yourself a few questions.
1. Do you cook? Or, are you willing to cook or learn how to cook? If the answer to these questions are no, well, then a CSA may not be the best option for you. If you are a juicer, or like a lot of raw food, then maybe this option will be a fit. But if you are loathe to enter the kitchen, or haven’t turned your stove on in the five years since you moved into your home or apartment, well, that may be a problem. You’ll find yourself wasting a lot of wonderful and healthy food.
2. Do you have time? When I was a college student, and worked several part-time jobs, I split a CSA share with my friend. Each week we would head over to the farm and pick up our share. Then I would go home and plan how I was going to eat it for the week. My schedule was crazy, so it took some planning and discipline to make sure I was eating the food from my share and not just grabbing the next quick thing to make sure I ate. So I’d chop and saute and cook reheatable meals and have grab and go food for the week. Without that effort, it would not have been a good choice for me. As a college student, I couldn’t afford to waste money. In the end though, I actually saved money and my diet evolved beyond ramen noodles.
3. Is it too much food for you? My friend and I split a small share. She had two roomates, and I was buying for just me. Between all of us there was more than enough. If you are in tune with what you eat and how much, it will help you decide on the right size. Will you be preserving some of it? If it appears to be too much at once, consider splitting it with a neighbor or your friends. Maybe you find after a season that you can utilize the share. Or maybe a share is too much and the sharing option makes it just right.
3. Are you a picky eater? If you are, the standard CSA share may not be the best option. But a market share, where you can buy what you want when you want may be. When researching shares you can obtain lists from the various farms of what they grow and what an average season looks like. If you find you turn up your noise at a large number of the vegetables you’ll be getting, then you might skip the normal CSA and opt for a market share.
4. Do you eat eggs, meat, bread, fruit and cheese regularly? Maybe the veggie part of your diet is inconsistent, and you aren’t quite sure you are ready to commit to a season of regular abundance. You want to dip your toes in but not quite take the plunge. I would suggest that you look at what you do eat consistently. CSA shares are available for a wide variety of local foods. You can purchase a chicken share, or an egg share. There are cheese shares, and one for mushrooms. Seasonal fruit shares and baked goods. And the best thing? They are available individually, so you pick and choose. There is even a paleo baked goods share (thank you Cave Girl Eats and Treats!!)
Now, if you’ve asked yourself these questions, and you are ready to take the step and join a farm, the next step is choosing which one works for you. Like I said, we have a lot of options here. Let’s minimize the overwhelm and narrow the list down by looking at the following:
1. How is the food grown or raised? Is certified organic important or is it enough to know the farm enagages in sustainable, humane and organic practices?
2. What do you like to eat? Heirloom veggies and unique choices or do you merley want the basics?
3. Convenience? Do you want to pick up on the farm, at the farmers market or is a drop off location near work or your home sufficient?
4. Price? Is there a share size that fits your needs best? Does the farm have an option to work for a partial discount?
5. Community? Are you looking for more than food? Are you looking to become part of a larger community with kids activities and educational opportunities?
6. Variety? Are you looking for just veggies? Or a full diet option which includes meat, cheese, bread and fruit?
Once you know what you are looking for it will make the searching a little easier. And the best part? You get to choose again next year if you didn’t get the fit you were looking for.
This may be out of the hyper local vicinity, but it is relevant, and it’s a great opportunity to get ideas to bring back to our little neck of the Front Range. Monday, March 3, the Mile High Business Alliance is hosting the 2nd Annual Local Food Summit. This is Denver’s largest gathering of food producers, manufacturers, growers, retailers, and restaurateurs. The conference will provide opportunities for folks in the industry to participate in community enagagement, community building, education and problem solving.
Last year nearly 500 people participated in this day long event. This year organizers are focused on stepping it up and creating strategic steps for supporting growers, ranchers, food producers, restaurateurs and retailers throughout Colorado. The end goal? Increasing access to healthy, local food in the Denver Metro area. The keynote speaker is Judy Wicks, whose memoir Good Morning, Beautiful Business: the Unexpected Journey of an Activist Entrepreneur and Local Economy Pioneer was published in March 2013.
Who should attend? Producers, farmers, ranchers, shop owners, policy makers, restaurateurs, retailers, financiers, chefs and distributors. Basically if food is your business, you should be there.
This event starts at 9:00 am and goes through 6:30 pm. It will be held at 144 West Colfax in the McNichols Building in Denver. For more information and to register for the event check out the website or contact Sarah at email@example.com. Registration is $45.00 or for MHBA members it is $35.00.
Here’s to building a strong local food economy!
While a little cold, yesterday was a beautiful day for a farm visit. Heading east just 15 minutes from downtown Fort Collins I headed over for my first visit to Cresset Farm to find out about their educational programs and upcoming spring break camp. You can’t miss the sign on the south side of CR52 welcoming you to their 115 acre spread. Open fields, check. Blue skies, check. Gorgeous views of the Front Range, check. Red barn, double check.
If you have ever met Jessi Brandt-Feldenkirchen, then you know how warm and inviting she is. And, you know how much she loves exposing kids to the wonders of the outdoors and farm life. With a background in education and connections to the Waldorf school of education, she has taken that experience and created some great programs for kids at Cresset Farm.
Having grown up in the country, surrounded by farms, it is a foreign concept that there are people in the world that don’t spend time outdoors and don’t know that green beans grow on a bush, or have never experienced digging up potatoes. But it’s true. Jessi’s philosophy is to get kids outside. Get them curious and exploring. The farm, in it’s third year, is evolving into an educational center, as well as being home to a working farm with a CSA and livestock husbandry (they have pig shares available at different times through out the year!) Jessi’s goal is to get as many kids as possible out to the farm. “No kid left inside!” From after school enrichment programs to camps, kids can check out the kids garden, hike around the property and play with other kids who are also learning, in the guise of just having a really good time.
To begin with, they have the after school enrichment program starting March 25 and running through June 5. Tuesday and Wednesdays from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm or Thursdays from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm kids can come by and learn all about farm life. From gardening to exploring to animal husbandry there are numerous ways to get the kids outside and learning about their environment and where our food comes from. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are $20 and Thursdays are $40. Pick up is offered from Mountain Sage Community School for an additional $5.
If you’re wondering how to keep your little, and not so little, ones entertained over spring break this year look no further. Whether you are looking for something to engage your kids in for a morning, an afternoon or the whole week, Cresset Farm is having Kids Spring Break Camp. Camp runs from March 17 through March 21. There will be morning sessions for kids kindergarten to 3rd grade in the mornings from 9 am to noon. Afternoon sessions will be held for 4th to 8th graders from 2 pm to 5 pm. The schedule is as follows:
Activities will include getting their hands (and knees and clothes and shoes) dirty in the kids garden and exploring the Kids Barn. Some of the fun to be had is collecting eggs and learning about the chickens, prepping the garden beds in the kids garden, enjoying healthy snacks, learning about composting, investigating nature throughout the farm, getting up close to the farm animals (pigs and goats and horses, oh my!) and many more hands-on experiences about life in the natural world and on the farm.
To learn more or to register visit the Cresset Farm website.
And don’t worry, Jessi and her husband Olli will be hosting summer camps as well, two weeks out of each month. Keep an eye out for those dates.
The 2nd annual CSA fair will be held March 1st at the Opera Galleria in Old Town from 10 am to 2 pm.
If your curious about what a CSA is or want to explore your options in choosing the right CSA for you, then I suggest checking it out. Maybe you want just veggies or you’re looking for a sustainable and humane meat source, or fresh baked goods. The CSA Fair has all those bases covered.
The Fair is brought to the community through partnerships between local CSA farmers and producers, Be Local Northern Colorado, The Fort Collins Food Co-op, and Local Food Shift.
You can expect to meet folks from Soil Stewardship, Lakeridge Farms, Blue Barrel Farm, Revive Gardens, Jodar Farms, On The Vine, Garden Sweet, Green Dog Farm, Hope Farms, Fossil Creek Farms, Happy Heart Farm, Spring Kite Farm, Cave Girl Eats and Treats, FoCo F.R.E.S.H. Farm, CSU CSA, Windsor Dairy, Grant Farm CSA and The Shire. Wow! What a list!
If you’ve been considering it, I say take the plunge into CSA shares. You won’t be sorry supporting local farmers and bringing fresh and healthy food to your table.
Tell them Erica sent you.
I recently met Justin Norton at the Winter Farmer’s Market. I knew I had heard of his farm Donoma Farms recently, but couldn’t put my finger on where. Then I remembered that a reader recently sent me a link about a local farmer starting a kickstarter campaign.
Justin farms 80 acres between Nunn and Carr just east of Fort Collins. Justin’s goal is to provide chicken, duck, turkey, eggs and milk to the Fort Collins area (including Nunn, Carr and Wellington), while improving the local soil and staying mindful of his farms carbon footprint.
By utilizing a pasture based system, inclusive of rotational grazing, Justin wants to focus on sustainability while minimizing off farm inputs. While supplemental grain will be provided, it will not be a main diet.
Animals will also be processed on farm to minimize the use of fossil fuels and chemicals used in meat processing. Justin explains his focus is not only on sustainability in stewarding the land, but is also on the raising and processing of the animals in the most humane way.
Future plans include being able to provide the local food bank with some eggs and meat in Larimer and Weld county.
The goal of the kickstarter campaign is to raise $8000. So far they have reached just over 25% of their goal. If the campaign is successful they will be able to provide 400-500 birds to the local community, while adding 50 more laying hens to their flock. The money will also be used for infrastructure projects such as fencing with rain, wind and snow protection, mobile chicken sleds and an egg train. All of which are meant to be rotated daily to provide the birds fresh access to grass, bugs and all manner of natural treats. To ensure protien in the flock, Justin is creating 55 gallon meal worm farms.
The campaign runs until March 18, 2014 if your interested in assisting a local farm expand his operation. You can donate as little as $1.00 or as much as the whole amount! With certain pledges rewards will be provided to backers from greens to farm experiences to food shares.
You can learn more about Justin and his plans fro Donoma Farms below, or visit his booth at the Winter Farmer’s Markets in Old Town.
I guess seeds are in the air this time of year, what with planning and planting for the upcoming season starting now. Are you ready for planting and seeding? Do you have extra seeds to share because you are a seed saver? Well then you are in luck! Home Grown Foods and The Growing Project are hosting a Seed Swap and Sale.
Join them March 1 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm at Avogadro’s Number. Seeds will be available for sale and for FREE. Dirt and planting containers will also be available to get you started. Talks by expert gardeners are scheduled and they will be on hand to chat and answer questions. There will also be a kids table where the wee ones can learn to make seed bombs.
And tunnels and hoop houses and cold frames and…
Is anyone else feeling the hole left by the exit of ReSource? This week I have visions of farm projects dancing in my head. A trip to ReSource would have been great. But alas, there are other options for foraging building supplies. None quite so near and handy, but options nonetheless.
This loss is on my mind this week because I am dreaming of greenhouses and cold frames and hoop houses, Oh my. Facebook has been a big contributor to this obsession. Weekly I scroll through posts of articles leading me to the three best greenhouses made from recycled materials, or DIY cold frames to jump start your garden. Oh yeah, the old green thumb is not just itchin’. It has a full blown case of hives.
In that vain, I thought I would share some of these posts. (Click on the green titles to view the articles.) They are sometimes short and sweet, but they certainly get the creative juices flowing. And if anything is creative, it is planning a garden. An art map if you will, with colors and textures to come, all flowing in harmony, or at the very least, a beautiful chaos.
I love this idea, and the website, Northern Homestead, provides really good plans, materials lists, pictures and instructions. With the winds of Colorado, I imagine this would be a great option in an open area. And, they look cool. Perfect for a small area or backyard. Not such a good option if you are doing high volume. But for seed starting, growing in winter, or growing plants that need more heat with humidity and warm nights than our Colorado climate provides, it would be a winner.
This article by Rodale provided great information and food for thought. Especially for those who are looking at production and volume. Even so, there are many tips and ideas for those with a smaller vision. How are you going to irrigate? Do you have more than one? What are the ideal placements for multiples? What are the light conditions throughout the year? Do you have good dirt? Having a good idea of what you want to accomplish and how you want to utilize the structure year round goes a long way in avoiding difficulties like flooding, lack of light, too hot, etc. Keep maintenance simple is my motto.
I haven’t used cold frames in some time. Not for lack of wanting. Just lack of getting it together before the season is upon us. I love them for winter greens. One thing to watch out for here in Colorado is that hot winter sun. Another thing, the wind. Anchoring the frames when they are open is crucial. Otherwise you come home to smashed glass in your greens or in your garden. Not fun either way. Personally, I’ve been thinking of using windows with screens that can open without needing to unhinge and lift the lid. Has anyone tried that before?
I love pig fencing. It is so versatile for farm projects. Strong, strudy, yet bendable. This article from Mother Earth News is great for cheap and efficient ways to create tunnels over existing beds to extend your season. It also has great tips for a climate like ours here in Colorado. Covers can also minimize the impact of unwanted bugs and predators (the likes of rabbits and deer). These same tunnels, uncovered, are great for vining plants like cucumbers or beans. The holes in the panels are large enough to get your hand through for picking.
This idea is dangerous. My husband would love another reason to borrow the neighbors large backhoe. It is a wonderful idea. Using the earths heat and a greenhouse topper to grow year round beneath the frost level. It also keeps the views to some extent through lower buildings.
This is the article that makes me miss ReSource the most. Recycling windows for greenhouses is an amazing idea and keeps building on the cheap. I’ve been thinking of building one of these on the south side of my chicken coop. Partly to add
some warmth to the coop for the heating of the south wall, while keeping the barrier there so as not to add too much humidity to the coop. Love the use of the windows and sliding windows makes for easy ventilation without worrying one of your windows will become airborne in our winds. Windows with screens help keep the pests out. Nice all the way around. And these pictures. They were the spark to my February daydreaming.
If you have season extenders that you use and love, please send pictures. I would love to hear your experiences, good, bad and neutral. If you have been dreaming of a wonderful niche to start your garden plants, I hope this has provided some inspiration. Now, I am off to my pencil and pad. Planning is calling me on this wintery day.