It’s a beautiful, warm Saturday morning and I am enjoying the sound of bird song and the scent of blooming lilacs while dreaming about opening day. It’s true that I am a baseball fan and that the outdoor pool ranks near the top of my favorite summertime activities, but I am looking forward to the first Cortez Farmers Market on Saturday, June 2. For my money, it is the best shopping experience around. Where else can you find the freshest vegetables, meat, and eggs; peruse handicrafts and baked goods that you could never put together yourself; and catch up with friends and family in an outdoor mall with live music and story time?
As with any annual commencement, there is apprehension around the changes that the winter brought to the sellers and their wares. Births, deaths, births, new love – all change the complexion of the market atmosphere. It’s hard to imagine that anybody but the “Matriarchs of Montezuma County” (including Velma Hollen and Bessie White, who started the market 45 years ago) would claim the anchor location smack on the corner of Main and Elm streets. It will be interesting to note which sellers expand their booths in anticipation of a bigger harvest after cultivating a new section of their market garden or installing a hoop house. It will also be fun to track the local food fads – will shishito peppers continue to be the vegetable to try, or will a new herb, tomato or beet variety take its place?
While the winter farmers’ market alleviates some of the loss of fresh food and familiar faces, the Cortez market has a much larger variety of food and people to experience. Plus, there’s a group of folks that I only meet up with at the Cortez Farmers Market. Some are snowbirds that winter in Arizona or Mexico. I can’t wait to point out that they could have saved their money this year and stayed at home for all the snow we had!
It’s also a time for us amateur gardeners to consult with the professionals regarding drought conditions and pests. It is impossible to compare my meager efforts with the scale of bounty that these pros produce, But a burden shared is a burden halved. This year, I will be looking for any ideas on plant varieties and cultivation techniques to minimize water use. I will also monitor the gossip to appraise the odds of a fruit harvest. What I am hoping to hear is that there are some apricots on the old trees, despite that freeze while they were blossoming.
Like any other fan at the start of a new season I will resolve to catch some away games and shop other markets this year. There’s the town of Dolores on Wednesday and Mancos on Thursdays, always a good option for picking up something for dinner on the way home from a trip to Durango. There’s a new market starting in Dove Creek on Saturday and Sunday – can’t wait to see what Dolores County will add to the market mix.
When I have out-of-town guests, it is fun to venture to Telluride for the Friday mid-day market or visit Durango Farmers’ Market instead of Cortez on Saturday morning. So many possibilities, I am just itching to start cooking with all that freshness. Though I need to rein in my expectations for June. Usually there’s a lot of greens to start – giving a new dimension to spring cleaning. But with our unseasonably warm weather this year and more farms with greenhouses, maybe there will be some carrots or snow peas or green onions on opening day.
Time to take an inventory of my farmers’ market necessities. Bags – check; cash – check; cooler to store purchases in car while I complete my Saturday errands – check; sunhat and sunscreen – will have to collect those. Maybe it will be cool and shady to start, though I am sure we will be wishing for these cooler temperatures someday soon, as it is only weeks until the summer solstice. I cast my mind back to the last market in October to remember any other necessities. The smell of roasting chilis wafts by and the laughter of children trying to lift a giant banana squash rings through the corners of my mind. Even on opening day, the farmers’ market season already seems too short.
Carolyn Dunmire writes from Cahone, Colo. Her “Four Corners Foodie” column won a second-place award for food commentary in the four-state Society of Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies competition for work done in 2017.