DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
Since locally grown tomatoes, squash and peppers typically are not ripe in May, it might seem a little green for the Durango Farmers Market to begin its season Saturday morning at the parking lot of First National Bank of Durango.
“People are eager for us get to started,” said Chuck Barry, president of the market’s board of directors and a Jimi Hendrix fan who named his Montezuma County farm after the guitarist’s hit song, “Stone Free.”
As a venue for farmers from a five-county area in Colorado and New Mexico, the fruits and vegetables by definition are seasonal, although some farmers will push their produce to ripeness by protecting them from the cold.
“As any home gardener can tell you, it’s pretty dang early in the season,” Barry said. “A lot of people use their greenhouses to force things along.”
The first weeks of the market typically are salad days because there is plenty of lettuce, swiss chard and micro greens for sale.
Food that is not dependent on the season, such as meat and cheese, will be available, too. Some new offerings this year will include rainbow trout and talapia, said Carolyn Blehm, manager of the Farmers Market.
Shoppers also can get ready-to-eat food such as pizza and burritos.
For entertainment, the market will offer cooking demonstrations as well as mellow, “not overpowering music” such as bluegrass and folk.
Some craft vendors and booths for nonprofits will promote their wares and causes.
But Barry said the market is not intended to be a flea market or crafts fair because the locally grown veggies are supposed to be the main attraction.
Unlike many farmers markets across the country, Durango’s does not allow brokers, or people who buy produce elsewhere and resell it at the market. The vendors are actual farmers.
As a further refinement of its rules, the board of directors voted in November to no longer allow nonprofit groups to sell food, although some longtime nonprofit vendors, such as the Turtle Lake Refuge, were grandfathered in.
Because nonprofits are supported with grants, tax-free status and volunteers, they have an unfair advantage over the small farmer struggling to make a living, Barry said.
“We’re just trying to provide the best outlet we can for producers,” Barry said. “We wanted to level the playing field.”
Many vendors depend on the Durango Farmers Market for their livelihood.
Heidi and Judy Rohwer, a mother-and-daughter team who farm in Montezuma County, have been coming to the Durango Farmers Market for six years. While they also sell eggs to regular customers in Cortez and provide produce for restaurants, the Durango Farmers Market is their main business, Heidi Rohwer said.
One Durango couple, Linley and Peter Dixon, literally are living off a third, or farming a one-third acre lot they lease from a friend just north of town.
The Dixons, who are in their mid-30s, moved here two years ago to be close to family and start their “Adobe House Farm” after traveling around the world.
“You have to be free of the travel bug when you start farming,” Linley Dixon said. “You can’t leave for a day, or the plants will wilt.”
There are many advantages to farming so close to town because the Dixons save on transportation and are supported by loyal customers, she said.
While Durango is an educated market, some consumers still show up expecting the kind of produce they find at their grocery store, which comes from all over the globe, farmers noted.
Here, if you want cucumbers and tomatoes, you’ll have to wait for them.