Longmont Farmers Market

  (Longmont, Colorado)
Growing Farmers, Good Food, Healthy Communities
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Back in Business!

It was 6am and I was sitting in the passenger seat on the highway trying to make conversation with Audrey, the Longmont Farmers' Market assistant manager. I just wanted to talk about anything...anything that would take my mind off the next 12 hours or how I got to where I was going before the sun was up. Not too long ago, I applied for a manager-for-hire posting for the Longmont Farmers' Market after a few years farming and feeling old in Boulder County. I was enthusiastic enough to overcome my lack of management experience and was hired on to a pretty small market weighing in at about 35 vendors. That was 2 years ago. I was now driving up to the Boulder County Fairgrounds, the home of the Longmont Farmers' Market, to get ready to start preparing for a market that had doubled in just a couple years. 

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reports that the number of farmers markets in the United States has grown 6.8% from 4,385  in August 2006 to 4,685 in August 2008. What they don't report is the expansion of existing markets, some in operation for decades like our market in Longmont, CO. Farmers' Markets offer small and mid-size farmers access to retail markets and opportunities for residents to learn where their food comes from and even how to prepare it. Some markets even host federal subsidy programs, like the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, that give low-income mothers and their young children access to healthier alternatives to the traditional cheap foods that are sometimes the only food options available on a tight budget and often lack any nutritional value.

Preparing for the opening day of the season is just as exciting as is it nerve-racking. We put the tents up, seats and tables out, turned on our credit card and EBT (food stamp) machines and prayed that the dark clouds moving in travel very, very slowly. The first of the vendors appeared and then the next and then another. Within an hour, we were in business! The customers began rolling in and everyone was delighted with the produce, the familiar faces, the new farms, and fabulous new tastes of local food artisans. We were able to add new vendors in part due to the new beginning farmer program sponsored by the market and hosted by our agriculture extension office and the fabulous market site improvements were funded by our county Parks and Open Space Dept. We are so fortunate to have county commissioners and parks directors who understand the value of local food production and access for our health, economy and quality of life. Our county invested $80,000 over the winter installing electricity, planting trees, and leveling dirt packed areas to make our giant open space a special event for everyone.

The learning curve has been steep, the failures have been many, but the successes have made the experience worth the struggle. If you are ever in Longmont/Boulder County area on a Saturday from 8am-2pm, stop by and say hello, enjoy freshly harvested crops of the Colorado season, and celebrate the culture of eating local.

 

 
 

Growing Interest, Growing Community

The Longmont Farmers' Market officially closed for the season on October 25th. After many hugs and farewells to good friends and good food, we all went home and slept in! The end of the season can often be bitter-sweet. 

 For the several years I've been working in agriculture, the winter has often been a solitary time to reflect on the summer community gatherings at the market. But this winter has been a little different. I barley got started longing for food talk with fellow foodies, when I received an invitation to the Longmont, CO Sustainable Harvest Fair. I was even invited to speak on a panel about agriculture and farmers' markets!

I wasn't really sure how many people would wake early on a chilly Saturday morning, drive to the local high school to listen to people talk about renewable energy, agriculture, water, etc. When I arrived at 8am, the parking lot was packed. When I walked through the front doors it was only a matter of minutes before I started recognizing market customers, farmers, leaders of community organizations and most surprisingly, city council and other local government employees!

All too often, talks about sustainability and local foods are hosted by NGO's and local idealists who get together over potlucks. But there I was mingling with government folks who thought the farmers' market was a community treasure and worth investing time and resources in to make it a center piece for local food, local economy, health, and culture.

For too many years farmers and agricultural workers have suffered from the lack of support for land, water, fair prices for their labor, and recognition for their contribution to the development of local communities. We've seen the rising impacts of the disconnection of local communities to healthy, whole foods in our health care system. City and county planners spent too much time planning agriculture out of the city limits and burried beneath the growing concrete neighborhoods.

 The Longmont Sustainable Harvest Fair was a much desired and much needed awakening that many hope will be the beginning of a fruitful relationship between farmers and their community.

 
 
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