More than 100 vendors offer variety of goodies at farmers market downtown
Farmers are beating a path to the American National Bank Farmers Market, followed closely by Bugs Bunny and nearly 5,000 other carrot-nibbling wascally wabbits.
But the downtown Grand Junction market, a summertime favorite of thousands of natives and tourists, is more than carrots and certainly more than rabbit food.
A farmers market is “the slowly turning Lazy Susan of the seasons,” wrote poet John Hollander.
The Grand Junction farmers market started eight years ago with a group of volunteers and a small cadre of vendors. Today, it’s run by an events coordinator and has about 100 vendors throughout the season. Organizers estimate that roughly 5,000 people visit the market weekly, on one of the 15 weeks it’s open.
The number of farmers, ranchers, bakers and other vendors has grown so much that coordinators have had to turn them away, said Kathy Dirks, marketing and communications director with the Downtown Development Authority. Even with the recent economic downturn, interest by producers has grown.
The market started with the stone fruit from Palisade and garden produce from the fertile soil of the Grand Valley.
Over the years it has grown more diversified, according to Dirks. Alongside the traditional farmers are producers of honey, grass-fed beef, Alaskan seafood (later in the season), herbs, organic eggs, lavender and other flowers.
Farmers make up about two dozen of the 100 vendors. Others include artisans, musicians and food sellers.
Yes, I can’t forget the music. Each Thursday there are four musical groups or performers, one for each of the market’s four blocks.
The tunes are part of the spontaneous fun, inspiring a few uninhibited souls to dance in the streets. I can’t swear it, but I think I saw a few dogs wriggling to the beat. (Or maybe the smell of fajitas was giving them happy feet.)
Full-out produce season won’t begin for several weeks.
Bending to the fickle ways of Mother Nature, expect to see peaches, tomatoes, squash, melons and the full complement in July.
On last week’s opening day visit to the Farmers Market, we saw:
Herbs: chives, oregano, rosemary, mint and more.
Root vegetables: turnips and onions.
Jerky: Grand Junction-based Dunn-Rite makes preservative and MSG-free jerky from lean cuts with a “family secret” marinade.
Meat: Roan Creek Ranch of DeBeque produces grass-fed beef and lamb and pasture-raised eggs. The ranch sells meat year round, in addition to Farmers Market sales, in whole, half or quarter orders.
Delta-based Homestead Natural Meats sells beef, pork and lamb whole or divided in smaller portions.
Jellies, jams and canned and pickled goodies: This is orchard country, so there is no dearth of preserves. Many booths carry them. Farmer Bob, owner of Alida’s Fruits, brought several cases of pepper jam. They sold out on opening night.
Artisan bread and pastries: Great Harvest Bread Co., La Colmena Panaderia and Fresh Breads & Pastries.
Barbecue and wing sauce: From Fly’n Roosters.
Lavender: Lavender Lady and Friends of Palisade.
Cheesecakes: Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes. Their peach cheesecake won in the 2004 Palisade Peach Festival, and wine cheesecakes are a favorite at local wine festivals.
Other: Eggs, rhubarb, snow peas, pinon nuts, strawberries, southwest Colorado dried beans.
Buyers who can’t wait to get home with the goods and cook can satisfy themselves with, to name a few, green chile, fajitas, French crepes, kettle corn and pizza.
Many merchants along Main Street and the artery streets stay open later than usual on Thursday nights. Restaurants, especially those with patio dining are popular, full of people “watching the world go by,” Dirks said.
Turn that Lazy Susan around, please, and bring me some green tomatoes.
VERY, VERY BERRY: If you know anybody with mulberry bushes, now is the time to prey upon your friendship. The juicy, very messy berries are nearly in full flush.
After harvesting, be sure to wipe your feet before you head into the house or your friends might not invite you back.
For recipes, see http://www.justberryrecipes .com.
QUOTE: “Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? I’m halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh my God ... I could be eating a slow learner.” — Lynda Montgomery, comedian