May signals the end of the spring semester, commencement, extra road construction and the true start to summer. One event that kicks off on May 20, from 8 a.m.-noon, is the Larimer County Farmers’ Market (LCFM), located at the Larimer County Courthouse, 200 W. Oak Street, in Old Town Fort Collins.
“It’s not the only farmer’s market in the area,” said Alison O’Connor, Extension horticulture agent in Larimer County and one of the market managers. “But this market is unique in that it’s the only grower’s-only market in the county, which means the growers grow what they sell.”
The market is celebrating its 42nd year in operation and over 90 vendors will sell products throughout the 24-week season.
“The market has humble roots and started as a way for the backyard gardener to bring extra produce to sell to the public,” said O’Connor. “The market still welcomes backyard farmers, cottage food producers and “mom and pop” businesses to vend on Saturdays, as long as they meet the guidelines of growing, producing and making their own products.” Farms range in size from urban lots to hundreds of acres.
CSU Extension operates the market
CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers run the market each Saturday and are on hand to answer gardening questions. Master Food Safety Advisor volunteers also provide guidance for canning and freezing produce.
CSU Librarian Allison Level is a Master Gardener who volunteers at the market during the summer. “As a librarian and a Master Gardener volunteer, I enjoy connecting people with information, whether that is in the library or from the booth at the farmers’ market,” Level said. “Extension is an important part of the land-grant mission of CSU and you see Extension in action every Saturday morning in the summer—rain, snow or sunshine. This market is one of my favorite volunteer events, it is fun to see sunrise in Old Town and greet the vendors when they set up for the market.”
Farmers Markets Build Community
“What makes our market unique is that it is a grower’s-only market and the diversity of products sold each Saturday is impressive. Whether you’re looking for mushrooms or zucchini, dog treats or a flower bouquet for your dinner party, you can buy it at the market,” O’Connor continued. “The vendors are dedicated and supportive, with a mix of old faces and newcomers. Farmers’ markets build community.”
Fort Collins resident Sue Carroll, the owner of Bones du Jour, has been a vendor with the market for over a decade. “I love the sense of community at the market. It’s a Saturday morning social event for many families who meet up with friends to shop together, have breakfast and exchange recipes and gardening tips,” said Carroll. “Customers and vendors connect with each other creating long lasting friendships over fresh produce, small batch food products, jewelry, art and more. It’s fun to watch those relationships blossom. Oh and dogs of course, I love all the wonderful dogs in all shapes and sizes!”
In addition to the diverse vendors, the market creates a sense of community by showcasing weekly musicians, and by featuring non-profit organizations. This year they have several special events planned. Last year was the first annual farmers’ market fresh produce food drive and it will be repeated on October 7. Customers are asked to buy a little extra to donate it to the Larimer County Food Bank, whether it be a few more potatoes or a bag of apples. Last year’s food drive yielded nearly 600 pounds of fresh produce, with the goal in 2017 to top 800 pounds.
For the second year, the LCFM will participate in the LiveWell Colorado Double Up Food Bucks program. This program helps individuals on SNAP (food stamps) stretch their food dollars further by matching up to $20 each Saturday.
For those who never have cash, the market accepts major credit cards which can be redeemed for market bucks to spend with vendors. To purchase market bucks, stop by the Master Gardener tent where you can also ask your gardening questions.
Farmers’ market details
Dates: Saturdays, May 20 to October 28, 2017
Time: 8:00 a.m. to noon
Location: 200 W. Oak Street, Larimer County Courthouse, Fort Collins
Phone contact: (970) 498-6000
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Alison O’Connor at email@example.com