When you walk into a grocery store the food is all lined up, stickered and organized. The meat is weighed and packaged. You see the workers busy stocking shelves and the meat and fish people organizing the case with their white aprons and hats. This is where you go to get your food.The Farmers markets dotting Eagle County in the summer give you the opportunity to meet face to face and up close, the farmers and creators of the food laid out on a table before you.
It surprises me I never gave that concept much thought until I started frequenting the markets. Let’s be honest, a home grown organic cucumber or tomato is such a taste bud delight compared to those waxy, perfectly shaped cucumbers and tomatoes at the store, there really is no comparison. I am delighted, at least for a few months, I can taste the pure goodness of an organic heirloom tomato.
The summer starts off slow and steady with early crops, like rhubarb and romaine lettuce in June; next come the apricots, beets and broccoli in early July; but the real summer gems – peaches, sweet corn, cucumbers and tomatoes – that local chefs and market regulars eagerly anticipate, show up around mid-July.
The Vail Farmer’s Market and Art Show, which takes place Sundays from June 17-Sept. 23rd from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., has a tremendous variety of vendors and is the largest market in the county as well as the state. Along with produce, shoppers will find plenty of local painters, photographers, jewelry makers and more selling their crafts. Be sure to check out the Vail Jazz Foundation tent by Solaris where from noon to 3 p.m. free jazz concerts take place (vailjazz.org for the lineup). Visit www.vailfarmersmarket.com.
Insiders Tip: If you should go to the Vail Farmers Market on Sundays, pack a change of clothes and towels for your kids. Why? Inevitably, as your family walks by Gore Creek, the allure of the refreshing, flowing water with swirling patterns will beckon your children with it’s mesmerizing movement. The urge to touch the water and feel the sand beneath their toes will be too much. Although the air is warm, Gore Creek is extremely cold and wet clothes in the mountains will turn your kids into icicles.Another source of liquid attraction is the children’s fountain, up the stairs and within shouting distance from Gore Creek.
Warning! Fuzzywigs Candy Factory is right next the children’s fountain-be prepared to visit the store. The kids will hear the call of laughing and screaming and they will be drawn to the excitement. High, thin sculptures reach up from the ground of the fountain and beneath, spurts of water shoot sky high creating water art and taunting your kids to jump in and get squirted.
As an adult, I feel the attraction to the water, it’s as hard to resist as samples at the grocery store. Once again, the air will be warm but once the kids extract themselves the chill will set in and they will be miserable without a change of clothes and a towel.
The Minturn Market is the county’s oldest farmer’s market and has its own unique charm. The market runs from June 23-Sept. 8 and includes children’s face painting, a bouncy castle, live music and more than 115 market booths. Visit www.minturnmarket.org.
Insider’s Tip: Park in the parking lot by the forest service office, that’s to your right as you begin to head into Minturn. Here they do have shuttles which will take you to Minturn. It’s a cute little town but does not have an abundance of parking.
What’s even more fun for your family is to bring your bikes, park in that lot, cross over highway 6 to the bike path, which is along the river, ride up to the next road, which is a couple hundred yards, take left and ride the dirt road into Minturn. You come up into Minturn behind The Minturn Saloon and they do have a bike rack there to lock up bikes. The ride in, is under 2 miles one way. From there you can explore the market and then when you are done, you can ride to Little Beach Park which is about another 2 miles out.
If you’re one of those folks who scouts vegetables and other local foods like a bee to fragrant flowers, then the Edwards Farmers Market, which takes place Saturdays from June 16 through mid September, is the market for you. The focus at this market is on all things edible. Along with vendors selling Colorado lamb, beef, pork, chicken, eggs, honey and cheese, local bakeries sell freshly baked breads, pastries and pies. There’s plenty of breakfast and lunch fare (the market goes from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) as well, including crepes, gyros, tamales and more. Pets are welcome and parking is on site. Visit www.edwardsfarmersmarket.com.
The Eagle Farmer’s Market, the newest market of the group, takes place on Fridays from July 1 – Sept. 16. Vendors include Osage Gardens, an organic farm in nearby New Castle. The market takes place from 4 to 8 p.m. in Eagle Town Park. Visit www.eaglefarmersmarket.org.