Farmers Market to Flea Market?

Farmers Market to Flea Market?

If you know Rollingreens, you probably know by now our obsession with farmers markets!  There’s quite a lot to love, from the inviting atmosphere to the delicious food and low-cost produce that also helps the local economy and the environment, we think it’s safe to say there is such a thing as healthy obsession, right?

Since Rollingreens was born at the Boulder Colorado farmers market, farmers markets, especially the farmers themselves hold a special place in our hearts.  They are the ones that make these wonderfully peaceful Saturday and Sunday mornings possible, and most importantly, they feed us! We’re all familiar with the saying, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” so we decided to do one better, along with our never-ending gratitude to these farmers we decided to talk to a local Colorado farmer who knows the inside and outs of farming as well as the farmers market off the back of their head.

Longmont Colorado, a town known for its bountiful agriculture and breathtaking landscapes just a few minutes outside of Boulder is home to a  beautiful organic farm called Pastures of Plenty. Started by husband and wife Lyle Davis and Sylvia Tawse, Pastures of Plenty has become a familiar face in the farming world.  The couple had the idea to start this family farm while hiking the highest peak in New Mexico back in 1989. Lyle, the founder of the original Alfalfa’s Markets had a considerable amount of farming knowledge from his years spent in the grocery business.  Sylvia wasn’t new to the food industry either, she had owned a restaurant and catering company and served as the Director of Marketing for Alfalfa’s Market along with founding the public relations firm The Fresh Ideas Group. Today they grow vibrant flowers, crispy lettuce, juicy tomatoes and everything in between, all organic and all with love.  Pastures of Plenty are usuals at the Cherry Creek farmers market, they’ve set up shop here for years now and have watched this particular farmers market thrive, struggle and grow throughout the years.

farmer's market

From the hours of 9am-1pm, you’ll find hungry shoppers bustling in and out of Pastures of Plenty’s tent stocking up on mother nature’s finest goodies.  You’ll also find Annie and Todd, two Pastures of Plenty farmers and regulars at the Cherry Creek farmers market. This is Annie’s 4th season at Pastures of Plenty, as far as Todd, when asked how long he had been farming for, his response was “I don’t even know”.  Safe to say these two (especially you Todd!) have some farmers market expertise. Somewhere in the midst of the commotion of patrons handing off cash, grabbing handfuls of lettuce and countless questions about the produce itself, we got the opportunity to chat with Todd and Annie about organic farming and their experience at the farmers market.

We chatted for quite a while, sometimes getting off topic talking about their favorite foods and other vendors at the farmers market they were fond of, it became clear that these two didn’t only know good farming-they knew good food too.  They explained to me how vitally important organic farming is to them and Pastures of Plenty. Todd explained how when we let mother nature herself do her job without interfering with toxic chemicals and other harmful practices, she produces the best quality products.  Todd explains how “organic farming is actually a lot easier when you’ve been doing it for a while”, and how complicating this scared practice with pesticides is a cheap short cut that does more harm than good in the long run.

Annie and Todd continued to talk about organic farming, all the perks for humans, animals and the world as a whole.  Annie claims one of her favorite parts about being a farmer, “is the simple quality of the food. It’s just better. And of course, the fact that we are supporting small farms”.

The conversation took a less cheery and more serious turn when asking Annie and Todd about what they’d like to see change about the farmers market.  Annie explains, “Probably how the farmers market is managed. Seems like there are so many farmers markets now…like they’re spreading the organic farming a little too thin now.  There’s more locations but there are fewer farmers. Now I’m seeing fewer farmers more water bottles or knives or clothes”. She explained how farmers markets look and feel more like flea markets these days which worries her.  She frets that the emphasis of organic farming and the quality could be compromised when farmers markets are more focused on products you can find at any genetic big chain store, some of which aren’t even food. She’s worried the true significance of the farmers market being somewhere locals can gather to support local farmers and purchase high-quality delicious food will fade, and farmers markets will become flea markets and completely focused on consumerism.

Annie’s fear of farmers markets turning into flea markets isn’t a far fetched.  Clothing, jewelry and other vendors see farmers markets as a stellar opportunity to insert themselves smack in the middle of the consumer action.  While many others are also feeling perturbed about this subtle yet perspicuous transition farmers markets seem to be making, others don’t think it’s something to worried about or stopped.  Alice, a Cherry Creek farmers market regular and mom of 3 young ones says she has noticed this change, but it doesn’t bother her, “It’s a farmers market, it doesn’t have to just sell food.  We’ll come to this market, grab some fruit, vegetables and maybe a snack.  Its nice that there are other vendors here because I can get unique gifts or just pick something up for myself or my family.

There are a lot of homemade goods and goods like baskets and bracelets made by hand that you can’t find anywhere else”

Alice has a valid point, while farmers markets are supposed to be focused on food, everyday life happens.  Convenience is one of the biggest factors that everyone considers, and being able to knock out grocery shopping, birthday presents, and score a little extra something for your hardships when you’re a mom of 3 isn’t something you’re going to say no to.

What do you think?  Should farmers markets take more initiative to redirect the attention to agricultural items or are they simply adapting to the world around them and making the lives of consumers easier?  Tell us what you think and happy farmers market season to all!