Every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer, vendors set up shop in Salida and Buena Vista, respectively, for the Foodshed Alliance’s farmers markets.
Some of the vendors grow the food they sell locally in Chaffee County, like Buena Vista’s Weathervane Farm and Salida’s Triangle Oasis, Rocky Mountain Garlic and others.
Some of the other vendors take local and organic ingredients and turn them into delicious things that can be eaten on site, like Drunken Muffin Bakery, Che’la and Mexican Tamales Brenda.
Ashley Ahlene, the alliance’s general manager, said the local food is not only fresher and tastier than what people can find at supermarkets, but there’s a lot of other benefits to buying the locally produced food.
“Not only are you supporting small businesses, you’re directly contributing to families living here in Chaffee County,” she said. “You’re also contributing to lower emissions and a healthy planet.”
Ahlene noted that a lot of food travels at least 1,000 miles before it reaches people’s plates.
She also said attending the outdoor markets helps people connect to the weather and the seasonality of foods, finding out what’s actually in season.
While the farmers’ fresh produce might be the main draw, the markets also include arts and services and entertainment.
Every market has live music, in Salida from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and in Buena Vista from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring local talent in the outdoor venues.
“It’s fun to take a lawn chair or blanket, spread out on the grass, listen to some music, eat some food you purchased, hang out with friends or make new friends,” Ahlene said.
Salida Circus and Buena Vista Circus have also been attending the markets this year, offering free workshops to kids in the community. “It’s an opportunity to see if they like the circus, be silly, practice balance and juggling,” Ahlene said.
Some artists also display their work at the markets, while a poet will write you a poem for donations. Simply give the poet a prompt, and he will type the poem out on a typewriter and you’ll get to walk away with an original piece of poetry.
The markets are also meant to be accessible, accepting food assistance like EBT cards. With a grant from Live Well Colorado, people on food assistance can get double-up food bucks, which match the amount they spend on certain foods up to $20. Participants just need to stop by the market information booth.
The venues also help make the markets family friendly. In Salida, the market is at Alpine Park at F and Fifth streets, and the Buena Vista market is at South Main Town Square on Main Street, flanked by the Arkansas River.
“Both of our locations are beautiful and nice and grassy,” Ahlene said. Alpine Park also has a playground, while boulders in Buena Vista entertain the kids. Both locations are also close to each town’s central hubs.
In general, most of the vendors attend both markets, Ahlene said. “It’s great for them because they get double access to direct consumer purchases,” she said. “For locals, they don’t have to drive to another community.”
The farmers markets will conclude Oct. 19 in Salida and Oct. 6 in Buena Vista, because it gets colder sooner there. Both markets also end with their seasons with festivals; Harvest Fest in Buena Vista and Shed Fest in Salida. “They’re elevated markets with more activities and more vendors,” Ahlene said. “It’s a good time to celebrate our regional food shed and all of its deliciousness.”
After the farmers markets end, a winter farmers market will return for the second year on select Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salida Rotary Scout Hut, 210 E. Sackett Ave.
“The farmers’ markets are an intersection for community,” Ahlene said. “There’s not one thing that makes it special; it’s the culmination of it intersecting at this one place in time. Variety is the spice of life and because there’s a lot of variety is why it’s an awesome place to be.”