While Memorial Day weekend traditionally signals the unofficial start of summer, in Durango, there is a more homegrown tradition that marks the season’s arrival: the first Farmers Market. Last week was the event’s annual opening day, and with it came the perennial reminder to the community the market embodies – on Saturday mornings, throughout the week and year-round.
The market serves as a pivotal symbol of the connections Durangoans across all walks of life share, as well as provides an important venue for nurturing those connections. Shoppers can choose from a wide array of local wares that go far beyond produce: In addition to arugula, sprouts and sugar snap peas, locally produced honey, hand soaps, clothing, meats, cheeses, baked goods, coffee, lemonade, pottery, music and mushrooms are just a sampling of the Farmers Market’s rich menu. And for each of these products, there is a local individual, cooperative or family business behind it – each, also, with a story to tell, a bit of knowledge to share. The collective result is wholly positive.
For those who venture down to the market each week, or even occasionally, the atmosphere is one of near celebration. Reunions with friends and neighbors lead to conversations that otherwise might not have occurred. Introductions are made. New products are tried. Experiences are broadened.
The Farmers Market also celebrates the community’s agricultural roots, as well as the evolution that they have undergone. The farming and ranching heritage that runs deeply throughout Southwest Colorado is alive and well today, though somewhat modified with new practices and participants, as well as a new awareness of and respect for locally sourced foods.
With that shift has come the appearance of several community gardens – including those at area elementary schools – where aspiring and expert gardeners can share space, techniques and harvests to supplement their Farmers Market purchases. The market contributes to the success of these ventures, as well. In addition to plants to grow in their own soil, gardeners can find support and commiseration from the growers who supply the market – learning what to plant when, what pests are plaguing farmers this year and what seems to be particularly hardy in a given season. That knowledge-sharing broadens the shift toward locally derived foods, supporting efforts at the individual and community levels.
Despite the relative mildness of last winter, there nevertheless is the feeling of emerging from hibernation that accompanies the onset of long, warm days, blossoming and budding trees, the rising river and the impending closure of the school year. Time opens up for rebuilding the connections that may have withered during the colder months, and the Durango Farmers Market provides an excellent opportunity and setting for doing so under sunny skies, accompanied by a tasty treat, to the sound of one of Durango’s many talented musicians.
Saturday’s market is just the second for the season, and while produce offerings are somewhat limited, there is an abundance to take in at the First National Bank parking lot. Incorporate a trip to the market into as many Saturdays as schedules allow and see how far beyond that morning its effects extend.