The local food movement in Montezuma County is thriving, and locovores who want to put their money where their mouths are should hustle downtown to the southeast corner of Main and Elm Streets. (Just look for the peach harvest mural on the east wall of Rent-A-Center and you’re there.)
“The Parsnippet” is back, a column dedicated to local food, the people who raise it, and the people who like to eat it. And nowhere is there a better place to get a sampling of the best Montezuma County has to offer than at its farmers market, held weekly on Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. June through October.
Saturday’s marketplace featured familiar produce stands such as Song Haven and Stone Free Farms, Battle Rock Farms, Tierra Madre Herbs, Wilson Farms, the Garden of Weedin’, Berto Farms, W Lazy D Bison Company, as well as new stands including the Pie Maker, Black D Spicer, Fury’s Farm, Summit Roots, and Diamante Farm. All offer their own unique palette of flavors, colors, and textures just waiting to make an appearance on your table.
Take, for example, a cabbage larger than an adult person’s head that was planted in February in Fury’s Farm McElmo high tunnel. Or traditional boiled and baked bagels from the Pie Maker. How about pea tendrils? Garlic chives, red and green rhubarb, bunches of beets, rainbow chard, baby zucchini, fresh basil, marjoram, and thyme in biodegradable rice-hull pots, sunflower sprouts (affectionately know as sunnies), and baskets overflowing with early summer greens such as spinach, kale, and mixed lettuce varieties. All available at competitive prices. All grown in our local soil by people who live here. Our dirt has been hard at work.
One reason for so much early abundance is the recent trend of using high tunnels, or hoop houses, as additional growing space. Sprinkled throughout the county are these half-dome shaped structures. Local farmers participate in a federal cost-share program underwritten by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Montezuma County was selected as one of several pilot programs in Colorado using these tunnels and it has proven to be highly successful. “Our county has been awarded more high tunnels than any other county in the state,” says Kim Lindgren of the Dolores Conservation District Board. “Our climate is perfectly suited to use these tunnels to grow in the shoulder seasons.”
High tunnels allow producers to extend their seasons and, explains Lindgren, an experienced grower knows how to select varieties that can keep growing throughout the winter inside these structures. A great example of this kind of diversity will make its appearance in July. Lu Nettleton of Diamante Farm says he currently has 16 varieties of organic figs growing in his high tunnel that he plans to bring to the market once they ripen.
Market manager Theresa Titon explains that at its peak, the market will host 42 vendors, including 6 new produce vendors. Of the 42, 14 stands offer non-produce items crafted by local artisans, including southwest gourd art, fiber arts, jewelry, woodcrafts, and bee products. Also featured are printed recipe cards, free for the taking, from local vendors that utilize local produce.
One such recipe is a simple one: Roasted Beets with Feta.
Sipping locally roasted coffee, listening to Donny Johnson and his Band of One, meeting friends, making new ones, chatting with vendors, and purchasing food that has traveled a few short steps to get from the farm to my table all remind me of why I live where I do. We are a community. And food is our currency So when we swap greenbacks of one kind for greens of another, we are participating in an elemental exchange of that currency and deepening our own roots in this community. It’s an easy, healthy, and delicious way to connect both to the place in which we live and to each other. The next Cortez Farmer’s Market is Saturday, June 14, and every Saturday thereafter through October.
And just in case Saturday mornings don’t fit into your schedule, or you want a mid-week infusion of local bounty, there will be evening markets at the Cortez City Park on the first Tuesday of each month through October. Producers and artisans will be there along with live music and educational activities for kids designed to make it a family event. The first one will be Tuesday July 1 from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Come and be part of your home-grown community.