Hazel Dell, Abbondanza and Aspen Moon…
They may sound like mystical places in a children’s book, but they are the farms who take part in central Boulder’s weekly story. The farmers are the story’s characters, nourishing and transforming their customers by connecting them to their roots through local food.
“The farmers are an access point to this energy of agriculture because they have this connection with the soil and natural cycles,” said Brian Coppom, former executive director of the Boulder Farmers Market who now works for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “We no longer really have those connections, but we get to participate in them.”
The Boulder Farmers Market started in 1975 when a couple of farmers gathered on the lawn in front of the courthouse when Pearl Street was still a through street. Twelve years later, farmers expanded and set up booths on 13th Street where, currently, over 150 vendors attract 10,000 people on a single day at peak season.
As a Boulder local for 19 years, I frequently visit the market. A walk through the market is like strolling through an art gallery: Rubin purple basil, edible Szechuan button flowers, golden amaranth seeds and lion’s mane mushrooms. It’s a feast for the eyes — nourishing the senses and priming the creative juices. What I love most are the diverse offerings made from local produce: spicy pickled beets, Anaheim pepper hot sauce and my favorite — strawberry jam ice cream.
These unique products ignite creativity in market customers, said Heather Morton Burtness, who grew up on Morton’s Orchards, one of Colorado’s first organic farms, and now continues the family business with her husband and three daughters.
“[Customers] are learning about food preservation and seeking out interesting recipes using local ingredients in new ways.”
It has always been a producers-only market — meaning farmers and ranchers can only sell produce they have grown on their own land. This approach creates an integrity and authenticity that cultivates a sense of safety in the community, allowing for more vulnerability, said Coppom.
The market is where I went on first dates to break the ice. It’s where I took CU international students who had never stepped foot on a farm. It’s where I brought my daughter on her second birthday to touch the pelts of animals she’d only ever seen in story books. The market is our connection to Boulder’s past, present and future.
Photo courtesy Boulder County Farmers Market