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Bayfield farmers market to launch Thursday

After some planning hurdles, organizers hope for successful season
Blake Knoll, owner of Pinyon Crest Farm near Bayfield, points to his summer squash crop. Knoll plans to sell his produce at Bayfield’s Downtown Farmers Market, which will launch Thursday and acts as an important resource for many small-business farmers in the area.

BAYFIELD – Bayfield will launch its third annual downtown farmers market Thursday, and despite concerns about vendor participation earlier this year, organizers hope for a successful summer.

The downtown market will launch alongside the second Bayfield Block Party as part of the town’s effort to build its downtown area, Mill Street. Organizers hope to see the town-sponsored Bayfield Downtown Farmers Market join the area’s markets as an established option for farmers and customers alike, said Jackie Morlan, a board member for the market. While some difficulty pulling in vendors raised doubts earlier this year, organizers anticipate a fruitful summer and hope to bring more business downtown.

“My hopes and dreams and desires are that we can maintain a steady amount of vendors who people can rely on, that will be there consistently, and who will be selling quality items,” Morlan said.

Throughout the season, the market will offer an assortment of produce, artisan breads, lotions, potions and a food truck into November, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Thursday at the corner of Mill Street and Bayfield Parkway. Organizers will begin accepting SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks on June 27, Morlan said.

The downtown market grew out of a 2015 community assessment by Downtown Colorado Inc., which suggested different strategies to reinvigorate Bayfield’s downtown. One of those suggestions was to incentivize a co-operative market for health foods and fresh produce.

At the time, Bayfield Farmers Market, which is starting its 30th year at the end of June, was the only market in town. Town officials asked if organizers would relocate from their U.S. Highway 160 location to Mill Street, but they feared moving would be “the kiss of death,” said Jacqui Day, market administrator.

This year, the downtown market is still experiencing growing pains. In January, no vendors had signed up. By mid-June, Morlan had 16 interested vendors, but not everyone had submitted their paperwork. A week before the launch, two board members found they could no longer help plan the events. Then, several community members came together to make it happen.

“They’re doing just fine. We were a little worried this year because Homegrown Farms and All Season’s Farms elected not to come,” Day said. The two farms are often among the biggest vendors but weren’t able to make the Bayfield market this year. “We, Snowcap Ridge and 2 Buds, all elected to join together and bring some produce.”

Blake Knoll, Pinyon Crest Farm owner and one of the downtown market’s vendors, ambled through rows of plants on his half-acre farm outside of Bayfield on Tuesday, pointing out onions, beets, carrots, basil, artichokes and more as he went.

“To be a farmer, it’s a labor of love,” he said. Knoll depends exclusively on farmers markets to sell his produce, often even selling out. “This area does have a lot of advantages. It’s got the advantage of, I think, a great distribution system.”

Knoll sees the markets as opportunities for business exposure, sales and community.

“I think at one point or another every farmer that does seasonal vegetable farming goes to some kind of market,” said Knoll, who sells at the Durango and Animas City markets, in addition to Bayfield. “Here, the biggest one is the Durango Farmers Market.”

Melanie McKinney-Gonzales, the Durango market’s manager, said the success of a farmers market depends on these relationships, consistency, transparency, variety and an all-around fun atmosphere.

“We try to create a whole community experience by having live music and those ready-to-eat options,” she said, in addition to produce stands and information booths. “It’s a community microcosm.”

Farmers want to know they’ll have enough customers, and customers want to know what’s in their food. The Durango market builds transparency by having vendors display information about the chemicals they use, their soil health methods and more.

“We encourage them to be very open and engaging with the customers about their process, to have pictures of their farm, and give customers information about how they treat their land and their animals,” McKinney-Gonzales said.

Farmers markets can also be an incubator where vendors can test their products with a low-risk, easy-access market.

It’s a perfect opportunity for someone like Knoll who, with two years of farming under his belt, is still experimenting with which growing methods and types of produce work best.

For Knoll, the Bayfield downtown market is a nearby, inexpensive opportunity, and with locals walking by, families in the park for sports events and regular customers doing their vegetable shopping, the market has a good core clientele.

“I’ve lived here for a long time, so I see old friends and I meet new friends. In the farming community, I’ve met a lot of younger people,” he said. “It’s been great. I mean, it’s a very vibrant thing.”

smullane@durangoherald.com

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