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Thursday, March 24,2011

What's blooming at the market?

Boulder County Farmers’ Markets launch 24th season with improvements

By Quibian Salazar-Moreno

With the spring season making its way to Boulder County, it’s that time of year when the Boulder County Farmers’ Markets offer the community local food — and farmers the ability to sell it locally. Now in its 24th year, the Boulder County Farmers’ Markets are making some changes — both in the Boulder market and the Longmont market — to better cater to the community.

According to Bob D’Alessandro, executive director of the Boulder County Farmers’ Markets, the Saturday market on Boulder’s 13th Street will run from April 2 to Nov. 19, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., which extends it a couple of weeks.

“The last market on the street was always the first Saturday in November,” D’Alessandro says. “Then, four years ago, we started doing a special pre-Thanksgiving market we called Cornucopia. It was at the Outlook Hotel, and we decided last year to move that to the street because it just seemed like a more conducive venue to keep it on the street. So basically what we were planning to do was do the last market on the first November Saturday, then take a week off, then have the Cornucopia market.

“But the weather was so mild — it extended the growing season — that we actually decided to have a market on that interim week as well,” he says. “So in looking at it, we thought it may be just too confusing for the public, making them wonder when the last market was. So we decided to avoid that confusion and just say that we will be on the street through Nov. 19.”

The rest of the schedule will pretty much remain the same, with Boulder’s Wednesday market going from May 4 to Oct. 5, 4-8 p.m., and the Longmont market running Saturdays from April 7 to Nov. 5, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In addition to the extended season for the Boulder market, D’Alessandro and his team have been in negotiations with the City of Boulder to remove the traffic islands along 13th Street to give more room to the market visitors.

“We went to them and requested they remove those because they had trees in them and a lot of the trees had died,” D’Alessandro says. “One of the largest complaints that we have gotten from the Boulder market, particularly the Saturday market, is that it’s too crowded, and the street gets crowded. So if we took those islands out, it would allow us to move the market back three feet on the west side and make a wider pedestrian area. We also negotiated moving the bike racks that are along the west side to a more central location on Arapahoe, where it makes more sense.”

There are a total of 18 traffic islands along the street, and the city agreed to remove 15 of them as well as improve and increase the electricity on the west side of 13th Street to place the vendors in a better arrangement. All of the changes will be made before the start of the season.

In addition to the structural changes, the Boulder market will be adding a lamb vendor, a new bison vendor, a new local farm (Lost World Farms) and a company that cans local veggies, M&M Local.

For Longmont market-goers, the Boulder County commissioners approved $150,000 to go towards improving that market, which is held in the parking lot of the Boulder County Fairgrounds. County staff, along with D’Alessandro and his staff, surveyed the area and agreed on a number of items to add for the upcoming season.

“One of the issues in Longmont is that we need a shaded seating area,” D’Alessandro says. “There will also be some shade sails along the strip, as well as an arbor, plus, they will extend the market so we can add some more vendors. What we did not have out there was a drinking fountain, so they’re actually putting in drinking water, so we’re excited about that.”

D’Alessandro also says that they are hoping to attract more families to the Longmont market and are exploring ideas for more kid-friendly activities like hay rides or a petting zoo.

Regardless, the popularity of the markets continue to rise and the number of vendors and customers are expected to rise.

“We’re just very grateful for all the support we get from our Boulder County folks,” D’Alessandro says. “We’re considered one of the top 10 markets in the country, and one of those reasons is that we have great customers.”
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