The verdant and fertile nature of the Uncompahgre Valley means we have a wealth of farmers and ranchers, and that means well-stocked farmers’ markets.
Just after the summer solstice and just before the last frost, we come into a delightfully sweet time of year. The old-timers used to call it “sugar season.” It’s this magical time of year when the sun is most direct and the summer heat most intense; this time of year when the length of the day starts, almost imperceptibly, to shorten by a few minutes each day.
In the life of a plant, this is not a subtle shift. The late summer days signal a change. The plant goes into full production mode because it knows the end of the season is coming. All resources go into producing sugars: sugars to draw pollinators into the flowers, sugars for the sweet fruits designed to entice us to carry their seeds far and wide, and sugars to store in stems and roots to overwinter.
August and September are the best months to eat off the land and the best time to shop at farmers’ markets. It starts with cherries and apricots. Then we begin to see peaches and sweet corn. There’s juicy heirloom tomatoes; rainbows of crisp, sweet, and spicy peppers; cantaloupe; watermelon; and apples. Even potatoes and other root vegetables are a form of this late-season sugar rush.
Without a doubt, for farmers, their families, and locavores, it is the best time of year. As the plants are manically manufacturing in the waning light, market goers start to feel pressure of the season, too. We start to see case and box pricing instead of just mound and pound prices. Freezers start filling, and canning jars become hard to find on the store shelves.
The season also offers much more than just fruit and veggies. Market tables are full of products and produce from small family farms, but there are also bakers and makers of all kinds, and more than in previous years.
According to Ridgway Market manager Melissa Newell, the last year’s events spurred a flurry of local industry. “It seems like the growers are all trying to develop a value-added product these days, and we’re seeing a lot more artisan applications too this year. Our market is about 60 percent artisans and 40 percent food vendors, which is up from last year.”
A similar shift is happening in the Montrose and Delta Markets, too. You can find small-batch roasted coffee, a wealth of baked goods, handmade jewelry, soaps, candles, and several food trucks at each market.
At least one positive shift has come from the economic pressures of the last year. The valley markets are all growing and thriving, and the landscape is changing. And just as diversity in the community makes us stronger and more colorful, it seems variety in the farmers’ markets makes sugar season that much sweeter.
Farmer’s Markets of the Valley
Delta Farmer’s Market - 5th and Meeker St. in Delta
Wednesdays and Saturdays 8 am - 1 pm
Thirty-five paid vendors, two food trucks, one hot dog cart, five produce vendors
Presented by the Delta Chamber of Commerce watch for a ribbon-cutting ceremony TBA
Montrose Farmer’s Market - Centennial Plaza, Downtown Montrose
Saturdays 9 am - 1 pm
45 paid vendors, three food trucks, 7-8 produce vendors
Ridgway Farmer’s Market - Hartwell Park, Downtown Ridgway
Fridays 10 am - 3 pm
65 Paid vendors from all over the four-corners area
Cool, shady venue in the cottonwoods and grass