Durango Telegraph - A bigger, better market: Durango Farmer?s Market opening bell this Sat.
A bigger, better market: Durango Farmer?s Market opening bell this Sat.

The Durango Farmer’s Market is back and bigger than ever this year with a record number of vendors.

According to Market Director Peg Redford, there will be five or six new growers from the five-county area (about a 100-mile radius) added to this year’s market. The weekly event starts on the morning of this Saturday, May 10, in the First National Bank parking lot and runs through October.

“There are more growers this year. We are so blessed to have people willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears to grow food for us,” she said.

Also new this year is a Wednesday “mini market” at the Smiley Building from 4:30 – 6 p.m. as well as plans for monthly markets inside the Smiley Building from November - April. “That vision came from the growers,” said Redford. “They were looking for ways to extend the season by offering items that can be preserved, like sun-dried tomatoes or root crops.”

Another addition this year will be signage at each booth detailing the farmer’s growing practices. She said the signs are meant to accentuate the positive, such as use of organic growing methods, compatible plantings and beneficial insects, while freeing up time for the farmers. “Sometimes, the farmers are so busy selling they don’t have 20 minutes to have a conversation,” she said. “Hopefully, the signs will help, and if people still have

questions, I’m sure any of the growers would be happy to invite them out to see their operations firsthand.”

One downside to the market’s growth is that other vendors not offering produce have been scaled back. “One of the byproducts of growing is that we had to cut back availability in different categories to create more room for agriculture,” she said. “Last year, growers were all selling out.”

Thus to create more room for veggies, there will be only three craft vendors a week as compared to five as in years past. However, many of the crafts vendors will alternate weeks with others, effectively making for six total vendors. Furthermore, herbalist offerings have been scaled from three to two a week, and the “other” category has been reduced from two to one.

Also, dogs will no longer be allowed inside the market in hopes to prevent an ugly incident before it happens. “While I’m sure they’re all good dogs, it’s just so crowded in there with people and kids … it’s only a matter of time,” Redford said.

For those unable to make the weekly trip downtown, Dolores-based High Desert Foods will be offering a twist on the Community Supported Agriculture concept. The High Desert Foods CSA will bring together more than 15 growers, most within 100 miles, to offer members a blend of fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy,

value-added products and prepared foods. The weekly, seasonally changing menu will feature fruits such as peaches, plums and cherries; vegetables from arugula to zucchini; herbs; free-range eggs; artisan cheeses; milk; and meats including elk, bison and lamb. An assortment of sustainably packaged, prepared foods and baked goods will also be available.

High Country Foods Managing Partner Bill Manning said it is hoped that the CSA will raise awareness about the diversity of foods available in the region while bringing people closer to the food they eat. On average, standard grocery store produce travels between 1,500 to 2,000 miles from farm to table, he said. “The CSA is an example of the way the food system is evolving,” said Manning. “More and more people are trying to figure out a relationship with food that serves them better than the existing one.”

In addition, the CSA will emphasize service, offering online ordering, weekly home or office delivery in Durango or pick-up sites outside of town. Members will also have the ability to order the items they want. “The hope is that we can match up with people whose lives are busy,” he said. “For them, this should have a high level of appeal and give them versatility depending on what they like and their family size.” For information, visit www.highdesertcsa.com.

– Missy Votel