Farmers Market Reorganization: Union Station Won’t Return and More Changes for 2022 Season

There are some big changes at local farmers markets this season, as some of the biggest players have closed or changed hands.

Like other businesses, farmers markets in and around Denver had to turn around in 2020, adding rules and regulations that disrupted the free-flowing vibe of these outdoor shopping venues. By 2021, some of the mandates had been lifted, but many markets were still in limbo, especially those managed by the board. Boulder Country Farmers Market (BCFM), and in particular its location at Union Station in Denver.

Last year, it was clear that something was wrong in the once-vibrant place; there were fewer vendors, fewer familiar faces, and no live entertainment (a unique feature that was also missing from BCFM’s other markets at the time). The idea was to get in and out, in the healthiest way possible. But this year, the Union Station market isn’t coming back at all. Neither will BCFM’s Lafayette Market, which opened in 2016 and closed last year.

“We didn’t get enough diversified vegetable growers to have the Lafayette or Denver markets this year, but in the future we hope to be able to successfully run them again,” Street Markets Operations Manager Stephanie Hempel wrote in an email to address closures.

Chef and restaurateur Paul C. Reilly (of Coperta and Apple Blossom), who helped launch the Union Station Market in 2016 and served on the board through the 2020 season, was surprised to learn it wouldn’t open this spring. “It seems like it’s a combination of COVID exhaustion, the rise of CSAs [community shared agriculture] and that they just couldn’t get enough farmers to commit,” he said, after consulting with an unnamed current board member. “All companies go through a transition, and right now BCFM is going through theirs.”

“In transition” accurately describes the current status of the 35-year-old organization, which originally opened in downtown Boulder at the courthouse in 1987. Over the past year, BCFM has undergone significant staff upheaval, losing executive director longtime Brian Coppom and his wife, Nancy Coppom, who was the CFO. The organization has yet to fill all of its open positions, even though its first markets open in Boulder and Longmont on April 2.

BCFM isn’t the only farmers’ market company experiencing changes this season. Kelly Miller, owner and operator of real Farmers Market, had run the popular Highland Square Farmers Market since 2018; this year, Hob Nob Eventswhich runs the South Pearl Street Farmers Marketwill take care of the space.

“I’m disappointed. I’ve dedicated my heart and soul to the Highland Market and grown it over the last four years,” says Miller, who created it and added a layout that buyers found easy to navigate, weaving in live music, a mini beer garden and a diverse line of vendors selling fresh produce, prepared foods, plants and crafts.

“It’s amazing what a farmers’ market does for Colorado’s small farms and businesses,” Miller says, adding that most retailers and restaurants around the markets see a 40 percent increase in sales on weekdays. market. “A farmers market is more than a special event; it really supports agriculture and the food chain as a whole.”

The farmers’ market scene has changed a lot overall in recent years, says Miller. In part, this change has been the result of decisions made by the local Chamber of Commerce and trade associations, often calling on someone like Miller to run their markets for a piece of the capital. As the popularity of these outdoor companies grows, so does the competition.

“I’ve been building these relationships with these farms because that’s the backbone of the market. It’s a way to attract fresh produce,” says Miller. “But there are only X number of farms in the state, and they can only do X number of markets.”

Miller notes that after becoming a trend in 2008, farmers’ markets have been growing in popularity each year. “There’s more interest in learning about food, and in 2020, people started to become more interested in nutrition and improving immunity,” she says.

While Miller will not be running the Highland Square Farmers Market, his company has acquired a new space in the sun parking lot at 3010 East Sixth Avenue, on the edge of Cherry Creek. She could have opened even more farmers’ markets if she wanted to; the interest is there, she says: “In terms of communities, towns and cities, they see the value in creating something that will bring the community together in a healthy and friendly environment.” Plus, it’s really good for the city’s economy to keep your produce and money there.”

The 2022 season will be the first since 2019 without COVID-related restrictions (knock on wood). As long as there are no weather-related disasters such as deep freezes, violent hail, or an outright drought, many of the markets will look like they did before the pandemic.

Take your bags and go.

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