It’s a gorgeous and sunny day on 13th street at the Boulder County Farmer’s Market. KGNU’s Claire Woodcock is with Joanna Sherman, a Denver resident who used to live in Boulder and decided to make the trip.
“I came down to pick up some plants…We got some lettuce, we got some onions, we got some herbs.”
But coming June 4, folks like Joanna won’t have to travel all the way Boulder for their fix. Denver chefs are inviting Boulder County to open a new market in the city’s Union Station. This isn’t a huge surprise. Local food is trending so hard right now. And Brian Coppom, the Executive Director for the Boulder County Farmer’s Market, knows it. He says this is largely due to BCFM’s status as a growers-only market.
“You cannot sell anything here if you don’t grow it. Doesn’t matter if your neighbor grew it or your mom grew it, you have to grow it in order to sell it. And that’s very unusual for most farmer’s markets,” said Coppom.
The Boulder County Farmer’s Market was rated the #1 farmer’s market in the nation last year. Coppom says this is because unlike most farmers markets, BCFM does not allow resale. With resale buyers lose the chance to connect with the farmer. Coppom says that not allowing vendors to resell products increases the accessibility that attendants have to local farmers.
“Bringing a growers only market gives people access to all of what that means, which is talking with the farmer’s, learning why they grow and how they prepare and what they believe and finding those things that really matter to them,” said Coppom.
Jason Griffith is one of those farmers. He owns Aspen Moon Farm in Hygiene and Niwot, CO. He has one of the busiest tents at the Boulder County Farmer’s Market and says consumers shouldn’t compare the cost of produce sold at the farmers market with the cost of produce sold in grocery stores. Even the ones that brand themselves as big sellers of “natural food.”
“We look at what everybody else is pricing at the farmers market. We also go to grocery stores and we try to get right in there. Typically, we find our prices aren’t that much different than buying organic from Vitamin Cottage. Organic typically isn’t that much different at the farmer’s market than it is at the grocery store,” said Griffith.
Griffith says there are many layers of hidden costs when it comes to growing. Local farmers often pay more for labor compared to grocery-sold produce grown in other countries where land and labor are cheap. Coppom says what people don’t realize is that the items they’re comparing farmer’s market produce to are items that use chemical inputs to make production more efficient.
“We’ve kind of been conditioned to believe that bond isn’t really that important. General Mills, Pepsico, Nestle, have done a good job of convincing us that they’ve got our backs, don’t worry about it, we’ve got you covered when it comes to food. But that’s not the case and actually the result is that we are one of the unhealthiest nations in the country,” said Coppom.
Coppom says that the growers at BCFM give the community the opportunity to reconnect with food. He says that even the occasional touch points–buying eggs or honey or fruit–can make a big difference in our relationship with food. But more importantly, Coppom says that the quality of the product at the Boulder County Farmer’s Market really reflects the true cost of growing food.
“Farmer’s here will typically make 5 cents on every dollar of produce sold. And if they have a 10 acre farm, they may make up to maybe 20 thousand dollars a year farming that 10 acres. It’s really a poverty issue,” said Coppom.
Griffith remains hopeful that the rising market will help him be able to produce even more products like mixed veggies, berries, flowers, starter plants and specialty crops, like popcorn! But he also hopes that the rising market will help him provide his workers with an income that will lead them to affordable housing for them in Boulder County.
“So far this morning all I’ve seen are familiar faces and we’ve been busy for the first hour. People are excited. It’s part of the community and it’s on the rise. Now there’s less farms here this year, though. And the farms who are here, are the best of the bunch. We’re the best of the bunch. And every farm that is still here I see improving and getting better,” said Griffith.
— by Claire Woodcock
Vendors will have their tents up and running Wednesdays, 4 pm to 8 pm, and Saturdays, from 8 am to 2 pm on 13th Street between Canyon and Arapahoe. The new Union Station market will run June 4 through October 22. BCFM also has a branch at the fairgrounds in Longmont.Those hours are 8 am-1 pm, April 2 through November 19. For more information, visit www.bcfm.org.