Here's a look at the freshest and tastiest finds at local farmers markets.
By Melanie Wong
If anything is a sure sign that it’s summer in the Vail Valley, it’s the appearance of local farmers markets.
Like daisies coming up in the spring, booths from various food, produce and artisan vendors pop up at weekend markets held around the valley. The largest, the Vail Farmers Market, kicks off on June 17 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and goes each Sunday through Sept. 16. Shoppers can listen to live jazz music and peruse the art galleries that line Meadow Drive.
Minturn Farmers Market begins June 23 and goes on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Minturn. Visitors can also check out a different theme or event each week. The first market features a “fairy garden building workshop,” and the next week brings a soil education and composting workshop.
Further west, the Edwards Farmers Market is held every Saturday from June 18 to Sept. 17, from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. The Eagle Farmers Market is held every Friday beginning June 17 from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Eagle Ranch Village, and has kid-friendly pony rides to raise funds for the Colorado Horse Rescue.
Check the markets’ individual websites for a full list of the vendors, but here are a few quick highlights you should be sure not to miss.
Fresh and green
At the root of the farmers markets is a tradition of fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits.
Osage Gardens returns to the Edwards and Vail markets for the second year – you may recognize their name from the culinary herbs sold at some local grocery stores. The New Castle-based farm specializes in fresh, organic greens and herbs, home grown on their family-run farm.
“Our farm is local – my parents started it 20 years ago, and both me and my sister work on it,” Osage’s Theresa Rumery says. “Our veggies are most unique in that we have nutrient-dense soil, which makes for healthy plants. It’s very flavorful produce, not trucked 1,500 to 2,000 (miles) like what you might find in some stores.”
If you miss Osage at the farmers markets, they also have a membership program. Customers can choose what produce they want and shares range from $250 to $350 for 12 weeks, like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
The beauty of having different farms at different markets is that shoppers can choose from a variety of products – some vendors might have specialty items unique to their farm. Bryan Reed, general manager of the Silt-based Eagle Springs Organic farm, says the farm’s tomatillos and variety of sweet and roasting peppers are always a big hit at farmers markets. The farm’s stand can be found at Edwards on Saturdays and Eagle on Fridays.
“We loved being there,” Reed says. “We try and bring products that fill a unique niche. It’s nice to bring things like purple tomatillos, red okra or sunburst squash and have people appreciate that.”
The farm also has a large greenhouse, allowing Eagle Springs to grow spinach, arugula, mustard greens, pea shoots and cilantro, to name a few – plants that would wilt otherwise under the Colorado sun. Reed will also come with organic eggs raised on the farm, as well as beef, lamb, goat and pork from organic Colorado growers.
You might not expect to find wild-caught salmon at a Colorado farmers market, but that’s exactly what Kaleb Walker brings to the Kaleb’s Katch stand at the Vail and Eagle markets.
In fact, Walker is about to leave for his annual fishing trip in Alaska. Last year, Walker spent 38 days on the water on a 32-foot boat and hauled in nearly 100,000 pounds of salmon.
The salmon is then flash-frozen and shipped back to Colorado, where Walker sells it at local stores and markets.
Besides frozen fillets, customers can also get Walker’s salmon wraps, smoked sockeye and lox, all from sustainable and well-managed fisheries.
“I like the markets because customers get to meet me in person,” he says. “I go up there myself (to fish) and know where it came from. They can hear the story behind it.”
Another specialty product comes from a new Vail business, Mountain Cupcakes, which recently opened a storefront in Vail Village. Owner and pastry chef Lauren Smith specializes in cupcakes that are… well, special. The menu changes constantly, but you might see something like banana cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, or chocolate cupcakes filled with a berry crème.
The chemist-turned baker (she worked in biotech before moving out the mountains and testing her chops at local restaurants) says she’ll also bring specialty dog treats and doggie frozen yogurt from a Front Range company.
Need something to hold you over with all that shopping? Grab lunch at one of the prepared food vendors.
For the first year, restaurant owner Babbu Cheema will bring Indian fare from Gandhi India’s Cuisine in Carbondale to the Vail Valley.
Cheema and his crew will serve up traditional Northern Indian food – chicken, lamb and veggie tikka masala, curry, fragrant rice and naan bread – at the Eagle Farmers Market.
The Indian native says the food is authentic, meaning he doesn’t spare on the spices.
“Events like this are great for introducing your food to the people,” Cheema says. “We’ve been at the Aspen markets, (Glenwood’s) Strawberry Daze and Avon’s Salute to America, but just now coming to the farmers markets in Eagle. We hope people like it.”
Another new addition to the Eagle and Edwards markets is Panaderia Azteca, a Mexican bakery based in Gypsum. Pastry chef Angel Duran and co-owner Jorge Morales bring traditional Mexican specialty items and bakery staples. Morales says the bakery is the only one of its kind selling locally-made baked goods; most of the other Mexican bakeries sell items made in Glenwood Springs. The business has been open a year and they are thinking about a new location in Edwards, he says.
“We make everything fresh,” says Morales, adding that while their customer base is mostly in the Hispanic community at the moment, he hopes the farmers market will give them wider exposure. “Americans, Mexicans – everyone is welcome. We just want to show our products.”