Story by Megan Cooney
As the days get longer and temperatures climb higher, the time is ripe for celebrating our state’s bounty of local produce. Embrace summer by taking your grocery shopping outside and give farmers’ markets a try! Did you know that June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month? Picking up a colorful bag of produce at your local farmer’s market is a great way to celebrate and try something new.
Why Shop at Farmers’ Markets?
There is an abundance of fresh, delicious produce grown right here in Colorado. From Palisade peaches to Olathe sweet corn, seasonal fruits and vegetables are usually picked at the peak of ripeness and taken directly to farmers’ markets around the state. This seasonal schedule and short travel time make these fresh fruits and veggies top in both nutrition and flavor compared to produce that was picked unripe and brought in from out of state.
Buying local produce that requires less transportation also helps to minimize your carbon footprint. You can often score deals with local vendors that can make purchasing your produce from the farmers’ market budget-friendly, all while directly supporting Colorado farmers and your local community—keeping your “bucks in your backyard”.
Fruits and vegetables are the stars of farmers’ markets, but you can also find many other local offerings like honey, meats, eggs, cheese, handmade bread and pastries, hand-made soaps, spices, local coffee, dog treats, flowers, and even tamales and pierogis for an al fresco lunch.
Shopping Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Market Trip
Go early. Vendors bring a limited number of their products to the market. Going early ensures you will have a greater selection to choose from.
Bring cash. While more and more vendors accept credit cards and Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT cards), it’s a good idea to bring cash just in case.
Bring your own bags. Reusable cloth bags are durable and a great way to keep all your purchases organized as you browse. Bring insulated bags if you plan to buy perishable items.
Take your time. Give yourself plenty of time to walk around and compare similar products so you can find exactly what you want at the best price. Many markets have live music and vendors often offer samples, so take your time exploring and enjoying the tastes of summer.
Talk to the vendors. Vendors know their products best and are a great resource for any questions about growing methods, preparation techniques, and many will share recipe suggestions. Getting to know your farmers will help you become more connected with your community and your food.
What Should I Buy?
Use the Colorado Produce Calendar to see what is in season. Generally, you want to pick produce that looks fresh and is free from signs of mold or bruising. Be sure to give all produce a good rinse and scrub before chopping and eating, even if you don’t plan to eat the peel or rind. Here are some tips for choosing some Colorado favorites:
Peaches Choose peaches with fuzzy, firm skins that yield to gentle pressure. They should be yellow-orange in color with some red blushing.
Melons Choose fragrant, symmetrical melons that are heavy for their size and do not have major bruising.
Corn Look for corn with green, tightly folded husks and brown, stiff tassels. Check for even, plump kernels.
Peppers Choose peppers that are firm, free of wrinkles, and that have their stems mostly intact.
Finding a Farmers’ Market
Fort Collins Farmers’ Market, Wednesdays from 10AM-2PM and Sundays from 10AM-2PM. Wednesday market open from June 13 – September and Sunday market open from May 6 – mid-November.
Located at 1001 East Harmony Road in front of the Ace Hardware.
Larimer County Farmers’ Market, Saturdays from 8AM-12PM. Open from May 19 – October
Located at 200 S. Oak Street in the Larimer County Courthouse parking lot.
Drake Road Farmers’ Market, Saturdays from 10AM-1PM. Open from April 21 – October
Located at 802 W. Drake Road.
The USDA Farm Fresh mobile app is an easy way to access a current and complete guide to ALL Colorado farmers’ markets and roadside stands. Download the free app at www.coloradoagriculture.com.
For delicious recipes, nutrition tips, and to find cooking and nutrition classes, go to the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center website. More great info is also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.