TOP FARMERS' MARKETS ON YOUR WAY...OR JUST STAY?
Colorado heritage and agritourism inspires unique summer travel
DENVER (May 27, 2014)– Perhaps one of the most alluring things about Farmers’ Markets is that they provide a glimpse into traditional farm life. The bounty displayed in bright colors and unique fashions is part of a larger tale – the conclusion of which is the market. But what if knowing the whole story, and being part of it, allowed you to follow your food back to the land and turn the markets into an excursion? Boasting more than 36,000 farms and ranches encompassing 31 million acres, you’re sure to find opportunities to follow the story and enjoy bounty and entertainment in every corner of Colorado.
- A Historic Walk, a lively market, and a dude ranch at Steamboat Farmers’ Market: On the up-and-up, this growing market now has 75 stands peddling the tastiest goods –take Scottish Heritage beef from Yampa Valley Farms, for example— in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs. From June to September, locals and visitors gather near the river to shop this beautiful market. On your way, or perhaps on your way out, discover Steamboat’s unique history on the ‘Tread of Pioneers’. Walk through downtown and learn about the historic buildings that grace the main street, or the characters that once resided there. If you’re enjoying the history and 2-wheel travel is your thing, hop on a bike for a historic places bike tour of old county buildings and historic schoolhouses. Then, head out to the country for a stay at the century-old Black Mountain Ranch where you can ride horses, feed baby goats and enjoy some traditional BBQ.
- Ancient history, culture and creativity at the Cortez Farmers’ Market: In rural southwest Colorado, this small town of around 9,000 boasts a Farmers’ Market bigger than its britches. Every Saturday beginning June 7 and lasting until October, this market hosts a unique collection of produce, meat, cheese, wine and artisan crafts. Local farmers pride themselves on producing a wide and unique variety of produce, and aren’t afraid to try new things. For example, sample the okra and Asian greens from Stone Free Farms. Extend the experience by heading over to the Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch and U-Pick gardens for an overnight stay. Savor organic produce and natural lamb and beef in this ancient and exquisite setting.
- Multi-stop markets on historic Highway 50: One of the last transcontinental highways left intact, this meandering stretch begins at sea level and climbs to an astounding elevation of 11,312 feet as it crawls over Monarch Pass just outside of Gunnison. From the west, you’ll drop down the pass into the historic and beautiful farm country that absorbs Southeastern Colorado. La Junta, a prime stop and economic center, was once the junction of the Old Navajo and Santa Fe Trails. Farm stands – a plethora of them – dot the highway, each showing off some of Colorado’s finest cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, pinto beans, beets, potatoes, squash, okra, green beans, honey, Colorado fruit, eggplant, pumpkins, bell peppers, popcorn, cabbage, and canned items. Knapp Farms, Sackett’s Farms, Colorado Produce, Griffin-Holder, Bauserman’s Market, Lusk’s Farm Market, Mameda Farms, Colorado Produce Inc, and O’neal Produce are just a few of the farms that will fill you up along your way to wherever you may be headed. After your day of adventure, rest your head at the laid back Three Dog Night guesthouse in Sugar City.
- All about the ride? Bike to Longmont and Boulder Farmers’ Markets: Love a bike-able market? The Longmont Farmers’ Market took bike friendly to the next level last year when they began offering a bike valet. A wild success, the new service averaged 100 bikes every Saturday. Aside from being exceptionally bike friendly, Longmont and Boulder Farmers’ Markets offer art, activities and loads of local and regional food. One of the longest open farmers’ markets with access to nearly 30 farms, the Boulder market runs for 8 fun-and fresh-filled months. This unique market boasts bounty from professional farmers with hundreds of acres, weekend farmers with small acreage, backyard gardeners or hobbyists, and teenagers working small plots to earn extra money. The Boulder market takes place every Saturday morning from April to November and every Wednesday evening from May to October. The Longmont market is every Saturday morning from April to November. From Boulder, take an hour drive to Sylvan Dale Ranch just outside of Loveland. Voted “best family vacation” by Frommer’s Colorado guidebook, this dude ranch offers 3 or 6 day options for ranch emersion, horse care, lessons in ecology, adventure and western style food, music and fun.
- Birds of prey, happy hour on the water, and an evening market in Pueblo: Aftera day visiting the Nature and Raptor Center or watching kayakers navigate the wild waters of Pueblo’s whitewater park, head down for one of the loveliest markets around. Soak up the characteristically Colorado scent of roasting chilies, stop by the numerous Olathe sweet corn stands, and enjoy a boat ride on Pueblo’s Happy Hour Cruises on the Riverwalk Excursion boats. While you’re in the area, take the opportunity to swing by Wren’s Nest Farms for a tour of their all natural working farm, or plan strategically and attend one of their urban farming workshops, classes or one-on-one coaching. Then it’s out to the 87,000-acre working cattle Chico Basin Ranch. An hour drive from Pueblo, this sprawling sand sage prairie offers incredible opportunities for wildlife viewing, farming, educational opportunities, arts and recreation.
- Make it a family affair in Fruita: Just West of Grand Junction, the Fruita Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday morning from June to September on the shady lawn of the Fruita Civic Center. Live weekly entertainment and a variety of activities for all ages make this an especially family-friendly market, which, as it turns out is representative of Fruita at large. Along with Fruita's extensive trail system, this Western Slope town also has rafting for all types, be it a leisurely float down Ruby and Horsethief canyons or a heart-pounding surge through Westwater Canyon. After perusing the market, why not take the whole family to spend some quality time on a working farm steeped in history and located just outside the city.
- Shop the extensive markets of the highest alpine valley in the world and visit an exquisite National Park: Meaning "cottonwood" in Spanish, Alamosa is the hub of the fertile San Luis Valley, and the Saturday morning market boasts goods from all of the various counties that patchwork together to create this beautiful valley. At an average elevation of 7,700 feet, the farming, produce and outdoor activities are unique to the region, and the Alamosa Farmers' Market that runs from July through October is a representation of just that. Whether on the way there, or on the way to your next Colorado destination, be sure to visit the Great Sand Dunes Scenic Byway. The dunes and surrounding mountains are designated wilderness, making this a great place to enjoy unspoiled natural beauty in a variety of ways; whether you play in Medano Creek, build a sand castle, slide down the dunes, go birdwatching in wetlands or ascend a 13,000-foot peak, you will discover plenty of outdoor recreation for all ages. If 4-wheeling is your thing, a primitive road leads up Medano Pass to some awesome campsites where you can stay a while.
- Hot Springs, a Rocky Mountain Base Camp and a thriving market of goods in Gunnison: Located in the center of Gunnison’s Historic Main Street, this market begins in June, livening the downtown every Saturday morning. Come October, vendors move indoors. Each week this dynamic market offers a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, beef, pork, eggs, cheese, honey, herbs, flowers, wine, granola, crafts and more! The majority of the produce is from the North Fork Valley, just on the other side of the West Elks, and a handful of local vendors offer some of the finest and tastiest Gunnison-grown food. Take a short drive northwest of Gunnison to Waunita Hot Springs Ranch, located high in the Colorado Rockies at an elevation of 8,946 ft., 10 miles west of the Continental Divide. The ranch is surrounded by Gunnison National Forest land and summer pasture, and the facilities host a wide variety or family-friendly ranch and wilderness activities. The ancient Hot Springs, originally inhabited by the Ute Indians, feed an Olympic size pool kept at 90 degrees, and a hot tub at 100. Stay a couple of nights at the B&B, or treasure the full week staying in guest rooms at the historic ranch.
- Craig’s rural country market paired with Bed and Breakfast on a ranch: Every Thursday evening from June to September, Alice Pleasant Park in downtown Craig fills with fruits, vegetables, crafts, local specialties and organic food. Whether you make Craig Ranch Bed and Breakfast your home base for a visit to the market, or decide to relocate and hunker down there after, make sure and visit this lively 15,000-acre cattle ranch worlds away from traditional lodging. Wildlife is abundant, and the extensive gardens, open prairie and nearby biking in the Big Sandy Creek river bottom offer a plethora of options for play. Should you have your horse in tow – or should this tempt you to bring one—you can stable it overnight at the horse motel and ride the range right from your room.
- The many markets of Delta County and stays on the farms that feed them: The 2007 Agriculture Census reported that 77% of all apples, 71% of all cherries and 53% of all pears in Colorado are grown in Delta County – a reason in and of itself to visit this productive region. On Wednesday evenings from July to September, enjoy market pleasures at the Delta Main Street Market, and from May to October, on Saturday mornings visit the Paonia North Fork Farmer's Market. Follow fresh fruit back to the orchards and vineyards of the Mesa Winds Farm and Winery in Hotchkiss where you can stay in a refurbished “picker cabin” and lend a hand on the farm. Or, Stay at the Fresh & Wylde Farmhouse in Paonia where the commitment to locally grown food is evident through the vegetable gardens, chickens, goats, berry patch and heirloom apple trees used to feed guests.
- Granby-grown and the wonders of an 8,000 –acre ranch: The Granby Farmers Market has it all; organic vegetables, fruits and herbs, local artisan breads and pastries, gourmet dipping oils, organic honey, alpaca products, shaved ice and ice cream, aspen wood products, home brewing kits, candles and soaps, delicious BBQ meals, smoked salmon, sock monkeys and more. In the height of the summer months, a prime time for solo, couple, family or group vacations, head over to the Devil’s Thumb Ranch for horseback riding, cowpoke camp, zip line tours, archery, fly-fishing, fatbiking, hiking, and more.
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