Story and photos by Rhema Zlaten, Longmont Magazine
My ideal self home-brews kombucha, harvests organic vegetables from my yard, preserves all of those vegetables and then works as a successful career woman and mom to a one year-old. I am pretty sure I would need a day as long as the sun shines on Venus (about 2,802 hours, according to UniverseToday.com) to really accomplish all of these tasks. Instead of attempting such an insane life pace, every Saturday this summer, my little family and I will happily make our way to the Longmont Farmers’ Market to gather fresh produce and a few tasty treats.
The bright morning sunlight casts a golden glow on the sidewalk and the smells of fresh breads, salsas and vegetables infuse the milling crowd. It’s 10:30 a.m., and the straight pathway cutting across the Boulder County Fairgrounds parking lot is packed with people of all ages. Nearly each vendor hands out a sample, from dips and spreads to freshly harvested tomatoes and gluten-free breads. Our family fondly refers to this weekly pilgrimage as a very happy second breakfast.
Terisa Hines and her young daughter Kolli live in Longmont and decided to visit out the Farmers’ Market to peruse their options.
“I promised her from last weekend,” Hines said. “We came to check out all the fruits and veggies.”
As they sample kombucha from Happy Leaf, a local brewer from Denver, fermentation chef Eileen Richardson explains the process of making this probiotic-infused liquid.
“Kombucha can be really strong depending on the types of tea you use, either black tea, green tea or white tea,” Richardson said. “We add sugar to a six-foot tank and the SCOBY fills the tank. The whole process of brewing takes about a month.”
A SCOBY is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It all sounds a little strange, but the product tastes quite delicious. Happy Leaf fits right in with the herb and flower growers, allergen-friendly chefs and the live folk music softly complementing the background noises of the market.
Bailey Batchelor and Nick Anderson of The Herb Company sit among a string of colorful flower baskets and freshly grown herbs. Their farm, located right outside of Haystack Mountain, supplies Whole Foods with wholesale herbs. Their primary retail outlets, though, are the Boulder and Longmont Farmers’ markets. This relationship spans decades, as Anderson’s father is one of the founding members of the organization.
“The relationship has been great, especially now that the market itself as an organization is turning around,” Anderson said. “The size of the market grew faster than the size of the organization was ready for. Now this is one of the largest most successful markets in the West. So there’s been a lot of organizational changes in the last few years that has been helpful for growers and contract vendors. I don’t foresee ever not coming to market. You get to walk around, see good stuff, and smell good smells.”
For some tasty lunch samples and take-home meals, Back to the Basics Kitchen from Lafayette sets up towards the middle of the market, offering whole-food based eats with everything made from scratch.
“We use almost entirely local and organic ingredients,” Co-owner Susanna Minichiello said. “That’s why we are here at the farmer’s market. We use ingredients from these producers, and we want to provide access to them for the public.”
Heading north on the Farmers’ Market path, we stop and visit August Miller, the co-founder of Foodshed Productions. This Longmont-based non-profit teaches city-dwellers how to design and build gardens within any economic or space constraints. They also host social workshops, volunteer to teach youth about gardening and get the public out to farms for half-day experiences.
“Foodshed Productions is a local social enterprise that is focused on bridging the gap between consumers and producers of local organic food,” Miller said. “We do this in a number of ways, by teaching, and coaching people through a season and beyond so that they can take care of all of their vegetable produce needs themselves, at home or at a community garden … We work with families at risk, as well as teaching youth classes how to produce food at a local community garden in Longmont. We have a class that comes twice a week, and we are expanding their garden for them, teaching them what it takes to grow from the ground up. Hopefully we will pair these students with local community members to really increase the output of local produce in Longmont.”
Miller believes that the more people see food production as a social experience, more produce will work its way into American diets.
“The more people that are involved in the process, the less time and energy it will take and it is a social activity, so why not learn about it socially as well,” Miller said.
As we walk back to the car, full from bites of home canned vegetables and sips of freshly squeezed juice, I can’t help but think that these are my people. Taking some time to slow down and talk with my local food growers changes the way I think about food production and the way I eat. All of that sunshine is good for us after such a long winter, and each week of the Farmers’ Market builds an anticipation for the heart of the summer when abundant harvest will fill each farmer’s stand. We nearly cry every year when the Farmers’ Market closes, but from this end of the season, we have a seemingly infinite amount of fresh produce bliss to consume before winter comes again. I’m thankful that these farmers and local food artisans save me from attempting to feed my family all on my own gumption, which would only yield us a garden full of weeds. Instead, I will sip my fair trade organic coffee while sautéing my freshly picked spinach and I will try to patiently wait for next Saturday to come around.