“Our food can be very complicated in this world. It’s always better to keep it simple,” says Larkin Wiegert, co-owner of The Lettucehead Food Company and Little Market on Main.
“There are many things to consider when choosing food,” Wiegert continues. “A consumer should look at the ingredients, and consider the food coloring and food additives. There are many unhealthy aspects of food choices on the market. But, there’s a return back to eating cleaner and more simply. As consumers, we are gaining more knowledge and power over the big food companies. Keeping it simple will help us to eat healthier diets.”
A fourth generation Denver native, Wiegert graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1974. She attended the Colorado Institute of Art for two years, after a stab at being a microbiology major.
She moved to Elizabeth and worked as a cartographer mapping out aerial and underground telephone equipment. After the birth of her daughter, she stayed home for the next few years and worked on a series of botanical illustrations.
A move to Castle Rock landed her a job with the Castle Rock Daily News Press in which she was in charge of layout and composition. “I loved that work. It was cutting and pasting with precision. An exacto knife and ruler were my favorite tools.”
During these years Weigert often visited the Buena Vista area. “We would always stop at K’s Dairy Delight on our arrival, and then stop at Delaney’s Depot on our way home.” In 1991 Wiegert moved with her daughter to Buena Vista to stay. “We purchased an 1890s home and enjoyed getting to know, Walter, our resident ghost,” she jokes.
Early employment in Buena Vista included work with Marilyn and Tom Ross of About Books, where she worked as a typesetter and designer of book covers. She then was hired by Rick Smith, The Chaffee County Times editor in 1994, and worked with him as the office manager for six years. In 2000, she was hired by Chaffee County High School as the registrar and wrote art grants for art supplies, while also informally teaching a few art classes. She retired from there in 2010 and joined Tom in the food market business.
Wiegert says that Little Market on Main was designed as a sister business to The Lettucehead Food Co. to honor the heritage of the valley. “We wanted the market to have a local presence for our community and tourists and the location on East Main Street allows for that walkability.” She says that Main Street in Buena Vista should be alive and viable, and that it’s becoming more like that with the recent new businesses.
“The history here is important,” she says. “With the resurgence of agriculture in our valley, we have taken a step in recognizing our past.”
She and Tom recently purchased the Buena Kist Trademark and have the label on several packaged food items in the store now. In the early 1900s, Buena Vista was known for its head lettuce and used the label name of Buena Kist.
Freelance writer, Christopher Kolomitz of Salida wrote in Colorado Central Magazine (June 2014) that “Central Colorado and the entire state had once been a booming head lettuce growing operation from 1920-1940s, due to the favorable growing conditions and plenty of ice. Buena Vista’s special name for its lettuce was Buena Kist. Ice Lake west of town was a major source of ice for the lettuce. Head Lettuce Day Celebrations became popular, featuring baseball tournaments, horse racing, free barbeques, hot rolls and coffee, airplane stunts and other attractions that ran until the 1940s when it eventually morphed into the Collegiate Peaks Rodeo.”
Wiegert says, “We filed the trademark name, Buena Kist, with the United States Patent Trademark Office this past year, and were give an NOA, or Notice of Allowance. Our plan is to donate some of our proceeds from the packaged food items labeled under that trademark, to the Buena Vista Heritage Museum. We believe in the history of agriculture in the valley, and this is one way we can honor that history.”
Wiegert is impressed by the young farmers in the valley. “We are glad to see this desire of returning to the land in the passion of our organic farmers here. They raise their own ducks, cows, chickens and pigs. They grow and prepare food the way food used to be,” she says. But she questions the organic certification process. “It’s backwards. Why are organic farmers charged hundreds and thousands of dollars to become a certified organic farm when traditional farmers don’t incur that cost?”
She says she finds it sad that many families buy the special discounted food items at the 10 for 10 rate to fit their budgets, when it should be more affordable for them to buy healthier choice options.”
For their two markets, Wiegert says they use 160 vendors to supply their food demands.
“We recently attended the Unified Foods Tabletop show in Portland and visited 1,200 booths. It’s a lot of work but a great investment of time to choose products for our stores,” she says.
“Tom and I are glad to see the changes in Buena Vista. We love our customers and we are thrilled the community supports us year round. The ability to open Little Market on Main has been a great experience. We can’t imagine living anywhere else.”