It’s at this time of year that I feel like standing on a busy street corner and in my best street vendor voice yelling, “It’s HEEEE-EERRRRRRE!!!” Maybe that’s why I decided to write this blog. To broadcast in a very loud voice the things I would actually in real life be too shy to shout from a street corner. Funny how that works.
So, yes. It’s here. S.P.R.I.N.G. It’s been here awhile, actually. What’s also here is FARMERS’ MARKET SEASON. And TIME TO PLANT VEGETABLES IN YOUR GARDEN. Folks, this is a very, very exciting time.
Let’s start with the farmers’ markets. There are three in Fort Collins but this post features the Drake Road Farmers’ Market, due to the fact that it is the first to open each season. This year’s opening was April 21st! Believe me, when I found out that there were only two weeks between the closing of the Be Local Winter Farmers’ Market and the opening of the Drake Road summer Farmers’ Market, I wanted the world to know. I was there on the seasonably warm April day that the Drake Road market rolled up its tent flaps to welcome in the gatherers of Fort Collins.
Here’s photographic persuasion of why to shop farmers’ markets.
Just-picked lettuces. Courtesy Wiseacre Greenhouse, Greeley.
Early Easter Egg radishes. Courtesy Ole Dern Farm, Fort Collins. Don’t you love that name? (“Where’d you get them purty radishes?” “Well, shucks, I got ‘em off the ol’ dern farm!”)
Noosa. My favorite yogurt in the world, made locally at Morning Fresh Dairy. At 3 for $5, cheaper than I could find it at either of my favorite grocers.
And two beautiful roasting chickens. (I’ll spare you their photos. This time.) Courtesy Mesa Valley Farms, Wellington.
But here are their farmers. Meet Scott Wiley on the left (the chickens’farmer) and Dale Doering (grass-fed beef farmer). Farmers are a pleasant lot. I happen to know these two personally, and you couldn’t know nicer guys. Farmers’ markets seem to breed this sort of happiness.
Case in point. Meet Bryant Mason and Amy Alcorn, enthusiastic ambassadors for a growing young company called The Urban Farm Company of Colorado. They’ll be featured in an upcoming Farming Fort Collins post. For now, I simply want to say that they obviously do not experience the same street corner shyness that I do and I want to live loud like that!
According to Drake Road Farmers’ Market organizer Nan Zimmerman, this particular market’s been open 5 or 6 years. Her inspiration for starting the market? A food farmer herself, Nan began selling at farmers’ markets when her own garden began to produce more than her family could eat. She feels that farmers’ markets attract shoppers who want seasonal produce and unusual varieties, such as the purple kohlrabi that’s sold out by the time I arrive. This is why you should follow me on Twitter. I fully plan to be the first at the markets each week to ‘tweet’ to you all the great and unusual finds which you should hurry up and get down to buy!
Now. Moving on. To the “It’s Heeeeee-eeerrrrre!” of TIME TO PLANT YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN.
Now please remember, I’m a native Texan, and in Texas we plant our tomatoes at the end of January. Okay, maybe not quite. My point is that I don’t want you to consider me an expert on food farming in Colorado. I plan to consult the experts and learn as I share with you. However, when I began food farming on the Front Range, I heard things like “Don’t plant warm season vegetables before Mother’s Day.” That’s in two days and means things like tomatoes and peppers and squash and cucumbers. Does anyone remember last year’s April and May? Yes, cold and rainy. Last year I didn’t plant warm season vegetables until Memorial Day weekend. Last year we didn’t have weather like this until July 4th. This year, IF I had known what the weather would be like, I would have started planting my garden in March. Sigh. It’s hard to get a jump on the weather. All that to say … my garden is IN and I am CONTENT!
Peas. Yes, these definitely could have been planted in March. I’m sharing this photo because I love the neat button row that pea seeds make in the soil.
Tomatillos. My first try at these.
My tomatillos and tomatoes and cabbage and broccoli have a story they want me to tell. It is the story of STARTER BARTER. How did I not know about Starter Barter for 10 years? It makes me quite, quite sad. Never mind, just picture this. A perfect, sunny Saturday morning, balmy air with a touch of coolness on the skin, Avogadro’s spacious, shady patio, local gardeners, floppy gardeners’ hats, gardening flats – a sea of gardening flats full of the vibrant greens and blue-greens of youthful, growing vegetable starts. Exuberant gardeners sharing their passion, as much joy and pride on their faces as any mother’s face could have.
This is Starter Barter. Organized by Home Grown Food Colorado, Starter Barter is THE place to buy, sell, trade, or barter for your vegetable starts for the season. Why would anyone ever shop at (ahem… Lowe’s?) again?! Me, I’m not much of a barterer. That works about as well for me as trying to shout from a street corner. Not that it matters. I was so starry-eyed over how cool the Starter Barter was that I’m pretty sure I never even heard the prices gardeners quoted me. I forgot I was supposed to barter; I just shelled out my cash. Don’t get me wrong, I do know it was very, VERY reasonable. Price point would definitely be another reason to shop the Starter Barter. Only I’m sad to tell you that it happens only once a year. BUT! If you’re sad you missed it too, there may be hope and you should keep reading for the events listed below.
My Starter Barter haul.
(* Loud Street Corner Shouting Voice *) Fort Collins, IT IS TIME. Please get up and go plant something, even if it is just basil on a windowsill. Please get out this weekend and buy from your local farmers!
UPCOMING FARM COMMUNITY EVENTS:
May 12th – Drake Road Farmers’ Market, 10a-1p
May 12th – Empire Grange 100th Year Jubilee at Mulberry Community Gardens. Read more here!
May 13th – Fort Collins Farmers’ Market. I can’t seem to find the hours or an updated webpage, but I believe last year the start time was always 10a.
May 17th – Free Documentary sponsored by Food Co-op, “Green Horns” showing at Everyday Joe’s Coffee House, 7p. “Green Horns” is an inspiring new film by and about young farmers all over America. The film will be followed with a Q&A session by owners of two of Fort Collins’ own farms, Native Hill and Happy Heart.
May 19th – Home Grown Colorado potluck. This is it. This might be your chance to make up for having missed Starter Barter! See Home Grown Colorado’s web calendar for info on the potluck and opportunity to exchange extra perennials and starts!
May 19th – OPENING DAY of Larimer County Farmers’ Market, 8a-12p.
I, unfortunately, am out of town the next two weekends of May. What I would love more than anything is to hear back from YOU about these awesome events. Fill in for me and then fill me in, would ya Fort Collins?