Wind, heat, hail, early freeze, late frost, deer, gophers – you name it, this growing season had it. In Durango, that’s pretty much a normal year.
“You always have to expect something is going to go wrong,” said Heidi Rowher of Rowher’s Farms, “because something always does.”
The Durango Farmers Market closed Saturday until May. You could tell it was the last hurrah as fewer vendors showed up – the delicious smelling pizza cart was gone; so, too, the knife sharpeners – and fewer customers braved the unseasonal early cold to shop. But the last of the year’s greens and tomatoes sold briskly while the colorful varieties of pumpkins and squash were carted away for holiday meals and decorating.
This year, greens, carrots and beets were the best sellers for many farmers but staples like tomatoes, potatoes and onions pulled their weight as well.
Every farmer had a different story to tell about how this season stacked up against last. A freak September hailstorm ruined much of Leslie Kerby’s red and golden delicious apple crop. Rowher suffered through a terrible year for her prized greens, while Chuck Barry of Stone Creek Farm said he had a record year for his.
“Steady warm nights, that’s conducive to vegetable happiness,” he said of the unusually warm spring. “Overall, it was a pretty mellow season.”
Not so for Nancy Nard of Nancy’s Garden, who lived through a drought-stricken June and July filled with fires near her Cortez-based farm. Because of the lack of traditional summer rain, she frequently had to water her vegetables twice as often as normal.
“It’s taken a lot to raise crops this year,” she said.
Nonetheless, she plans to be back next year, as sales went well her first year at the market.
Some like Barry and Jennifer Wheeling of the Gardens at James Ranch said this year was better than last year, both for the crops and for sales. Others said it was about the same. Rowher deemed it a learning year at the farm and at the market – what to plant when, what sells best and what not to do again. For first-time farmers at the market like Nard and Dustin Stein of Stubborn Farm, most said they sold everything they harvested and wished they had had more to offer eager customers.
“I need to grow more,” Stein said. “If I can grow it, I can sell it.”
That’s a business model anyone would envy.