Winter farmers’ markets provide same quality, different atmosphere than summer
December 22, 2017
When most people think about farmers' markets, spring, summer and fall are normally the time of year we associate them with.
But in Colorado, there are a few markets that stay open through the winter months to provide fresh, local produce to consumers.
Margaret Barkey, owner of Four Seasons Farmers & Artisans Market in Wheat Ridge, Colo., said the winter months are where the store's "strength" is.
The market is different than what most would think, as it is open more than one day a week. However, Saturdays have more of the traditional farmers' market feel because that is the day vendors are in the store to talk with customers about their products.
Barkey, a retired teacher and middle school counselor, and her husband were vendors at another market after they retired. That market was closing so Barkey talked with some of the vendors and they joined her when Four Seasons opened November 2015.
Barkey said she didn't intend to own her own market, but she saw a need to continue to have one in the area.
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Four Seasons has a unique advantage many other winter markets don't have — consistent hours.
The Greeley Farmers Market in Greeley, Colo., struggles to see the same numbers in the winter as in the summer, and Deb DeBoutez, who coordinates the markets for the city, said the every other week schedule makes it hard for some to make a routine of stopping at the market as they do during the summer.
At the Montrose Farmers Market in Montrose, Colo., Karen Floyd is working to make sure people plan to attend the market, even though it is only held every other week during the winter.
Part of the strategy is moving it to a new location in the winter indoors at Zoe's, 715 10th St. — the location in the summer will stay in the Union Pacific Depot, 902 7th Ave., Floyd said the new location will make it more visible, and will allow it to be a place where people can say, "Meet me at the market."
That's the new slogan Floyd is implementing, but she also wants it to be the actual atmosphere of the market, as well.
The market has been around for about 36 years, and Floyd wants to build on that, adding coffee and breakfast items so the market will become a stopping place for more than just produce.
She started to work as a manager of the market in June, and this is her first winter season.
DeBoutez is fairly new to her position, too, as she started in 2016. This year the winter market, which started about eight years ago. has about a quarter of the customers compared to the weekly summer market. But those who come are regulars.
"These are regular customers who have developed a relationship with the vendors," she said.
That relationship has become increasingly important in recent years, as more consumers are interested in the story behind their food.
The story behind the food at Berry Patch Farms in Brighton, Colo., is important to owners Tim and Claudia Farrell. The couple started their business in 1991, and it's a year-round farm, which includes a farmers' market every Saturday during the winter.
The produce available, except the beef, chicken and eggs, are all certified organic. The couple has produced organic products since the '80s.
But it's more than just the organic products that's important to Claudia. It's about having the certification, in particular.
She said the certification proves they're not just doing organic, but doing it right with the checkoffs and verification.
"We really believe in oversight," she said, adding it means more to consumers to see that label than just them saying they're an organic operation.
Plus, in Brighton, Colo., there isn't a Whole Foods or Vitamin Cottage, so Patch Berry Farm can provide those fresh, organic products those stores are known for.
The Farrells have the same goal as DeBoutez, Floyd and Barkey. They all want to provide good, fresh produce to the community year-round. While it might take extra work, according to Claudia, that isn't enough to dissuade them from continuing to offer quality produce during the winter months. ❖
— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.