By Pauline Benetti | Southwest Organization for Sustainability
In response to the question asked repeatedly this month— when will it open? — we can now say that the Pagosa Farmers Market will open this Saturday at 9 a.m. and close at 1 p.m. in the same location, co-located with the East Side Market at the east end of town.
We won’t have our full complement of vendors yet, but all kinds of good products will be available, especially vine-ripened tomatoes from the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) growing dome — something not to be found elsewhere this early in the season. Also to be found are tomato plants which now can be safely hardened off outside for increasing periods of time until it’s safe to plant while keeping a sharp eye on night time temperatures. Anything below 50 degrees means cover up.
If the temperatures hold, growers operating their own booths will offer a range of freshly harvested vegetables that will change as the season progresses. Other producers will offer wonderful sourdough breads, sweet pastries, jams, local honey, pesto, farm-fresh eggs and a selection of naturally raised and USDA-inspected beef cuts.
Special notice to SNAP recipients and seniors: The market continues to accept SNAP cards and to distribute Double Up Bucks worth $20 with the first $20 SNAP purchase and to accept coupons distributed by the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging, both of which make shopping at the Pagosa Farmers Market a wise choice economically.
The Pagosa Farmers Market is part of a community wide effort to increase local production of food by providing a venue where local food can be offered directly to the consumer with benefit to producer, consumer and community. The market in no way profits from this arrangement. Booth fees are passed on to the owner of the property. Support for the market comes from the Town of Pagosa Springs.
The market does not work alone. There are other nonprofits involved in the effort to increase local food production. Healthy Archuleta, doing business as the FSFE — Food Coalition, will soon cast a wide net in its countywide assessment of both community health and food production, the relationship between consuming nutrient-dense food and health, and equity issues involved in access to fresh local food. From its inception, Healthy Archuleta has worked to establish community gardens and encourage backyard growers to increase production with the intent of giving excess to neighbors or donating to our local food pantries or selling at the Pagosa Farmers Market.
The GGP is another nonprofit dedicated to increasing local food production via the three growing domes at the downtown site in Centennial Park. The Community Garden Dome is worked by local community groups who use some of the produce themselves, give to friends or donate to the local food pantries. Hopefully, the Education dome will return soon to its mission of teaching children how to grow. In the meantime, a crew of volunteers grows produce to be sold at the dome or at the Pagosa Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. The third dome is just beginning to operate as an acquaponic installation and will soon be selling produce to our local restaurants.
In addition to nonprofits, Colorado State University, in the person of Robin Young, local extension agent, contributes mightily to the effort of increasing local food production by offering classes on everything related to small growers by training Master Gardeners, offering cottage food training classes, offering classes to ranchers and offering myriad other services.
The community, too, is engaged. The April Food Summit hosted by Healthy Archuleta brought together an amazingly large number of community members interested in local food. More than 100 people gathered to listen to the keynote speaker set the challenge, folks from the growing community relate their experiences, and town and county officials explain regulations and services relevant to growers.
Proof positive of community engagement came during the June participatory voting process sponsored by Healthy Archuleta. “Grow More Local Produce” was the winner from a list of priorities offered to help Healthy Archuleta select the area to be at the forefront of its future efforts.
Consider a standing invitation from each one of these entities to join whichever one most exactly meets the particular interests. The contacts are: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. As we all know too well, growing in Pagosa County is not for sissies. There are so many ways that folks can participate and learn and move us forward in the march toward greater resiliency
Get involved in some way and also visit the Pagosa Farmers Market on Saturday.