Every Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon, beginning in the spring, the Boulder Farmers’ Market transforms 13th Street in downtown Boulder into a vibrant open-air marketplace. The market brings friends and neighbors together to browse through heaping baskets of rainbow chard, mounds of deep red, gold and purple beets, piles of vine-ripened tomatoes, and now, in the heat of summer, the sweetest cherries, apricots and peaches around — all locally grown.
Recently named one of the top 10 farmers’ markets in the country by “Eating Well” magazine, the Boulder Farmers’ Market has been offering Boulder residents and visitors a bounty of produce (much of it organically grown), fresh-cut flowers,
locally-made artisan foods and community spirit for more than 20 years.
“I drive here every week. The vendors are the best, the atmosphere is really comfortable, there’s such a community feeling,” Suzanne Gunn of Denver says.
It’s easy to agree with Gunn. There is a relaxed feeling that comes with a visit to the Boulder market. On a Wednesday afternoon you may find retired couples and their grandchildren side by side with pierced punks sampling a taste of fresh-baked bread or dreadlocked hippies and soccer moms inspecting freshly picked herbs on a Saturday morning — all with a smile on their face.
Alison Reder, co-owner of Rustica, an Italian-style artisan bakery, sells at the market each week. She loves the interaction the market provides. “I’m somewhat of an extrovert, so this really brings me out,” she says. “I love the feel of this, you watch the whole thing come alive; it’s community.” Stop by Reder’s stand to sample the orange polenta wafers or the savory wine crackers in flavors such as fig and rosemary or cherry and black pepper.
Unlike some area farmers’ markets, where vendors may sell produce from California or even Mexico, the Boulder market only allows vendors who sell locally grown, or locally made, foods. In fact, the market’s motto is “We grow what we sell.”
According to the Boulder Farmers’ Market website, 90 percent of the fossil fuel energy used in our food system goes into packaging, transportation and marketing. And a study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University reveals that most of the food we eat travels an average of 1,500 to 3,000 miles to reach our plates. When you buy from the farmers’ market you are supporting your local farmers, but you are also reducing energy consumption.
One of the more compelling farmers at the market is Kipp Nash, the founder and grower of Community Roots, an “urban veggie movement.” Nash explains Community Roots as a collective farming project; he has garden plots throughout downtown Boulder — in backyards, front yards and in a community garden where he grows the veggies he sells. “We’re actually as local as you can get,” he claims. You certainly can’t argue with the freshness of the neatly bundled parsley and cilantro, the massive leaves of crisp romaine lettuce, the little bunches of bok choy and the other vegetables Nash and his partner, Kimberly Bryant, sell at their stand.
Other vendors at the market include Hazel Dell farms, offering organically grown mushrooms, from shiitakes to portabellas to exotic oyster mushrooms; Ravenous Chocolate, selling dark chocolate balsamic vinaigrettes and other chocolate sauces; Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy sampling and selling its award-winning cheeses; and Loredana’s Pesto, selling a large variety of handcrafted pestos and tapenades and offering free tastes of each kind.
If all of the samples don’t curb your appetite and you can’t wait to get home to prepare all of your freshly purchased food, stroll into the food court where you can fill your stomach with homemade tamales, freshly made dumplings, custom-made pizzas, or choose from a variety of chilis — American, green, veggie or Cincinnati style. You can even grab a microbrew or try an organic wine from the beer and wine garden. In true Boulder style, everything in the food court is served in biodegradable containers and is compostable. In fact, the entire market is a “waste free” zone; there are recycling and compost bins throughout the market where shoppers are encouraged to toss their “non-trash” items.
“This is revolution,” Kimberly Bryant from Community Roots says about the Boulder Farmer’s Market. “Even for people who aren’t completely into natural living and who don’t go to farmers’ markets regularly, the ones who are here, they’re on the edge.” She says that whether people realize it or not, they are contributing to a progressive movement.
The Boulder market only allows vendors who sell locally grown, or locally made, foods.
So whether you do it for the environment, for your local farmers or just to satisfy your need for community and good food, take a trip to the Boulder Farmers’ Market and get to know the people who
grow your food.
If You Go
Bring your own bags or baskets; the market doesn’t supply them.
Boulder Farmers’ Market is on 13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue. The market is open Saturdays, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. April 3 to Nov. 6, and Wednesdays, 4-8 p.m. May 5 to Oct. 6. For a complete list of vendors go to www.boulderfarmers.org.
Lindsay Wilson is a senior journalism student at Metropolitan State College in Denver.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.