RIDGWAY – Last weekend, Ridgway’s first farmers market of the season ushered in the summer with the promise of fresh fruits, vegetables and much more. On Sunday, June 15, farmers, ranchers, artisans, musicians, and residents gathered at the Ouray County Fairgrounds to celebrate and share the first bounty of the year.
Vendors set up their booths selling everything from early summer vegetables, grass-fed buffalo and elk, and farm-fresh milk and eggs, to cut flowers, fresh baked bread, homemade soap, jewelry, and bedding plants.
According to market President Sue Whittlesey, participating vendors all live and work within 200 miles of Ridgway and nothing is shipped from out of state. Buyers can learn all they need to know about the food for sale by simply asking the person who grew it.
Much of the produce for the market is grown in the North Fork Valley around Paonia, Hotchkiss and Delta, as well as near Olathe and Montrose. “We try to get a couple of farmers from the Grand Junction area. Their climate is more conducive to growing, so they can provide fresh vegetables and fruit earlier in the season,” Whittlesey said. Many farmers spend their weekends traveling to regional markets, providing mountain towns with much appreciated produce.
As the summer progresses, shoppers can expect to encounter all sorts of special food that cannot be found at the grocery store, including organic heirloom vegetables of all varieties, fruit picked within a day of sale, and melons fresh from the vine.
“This was a tough spring for a lot of farmers in the region, with cold temperatures and unusually late freezes,” Whittlesey explained. Many of the orchards in the North Fork Valley, famous in Colorado for their cherries, apricots and peaches, were hard hit. Other crops weathered the spring better. “Although it is a late season this year, there are many farms with early peas, lettuce and greens,” assured Whittlesey.
In addition to seasonal vegetables, the market offers plenty of other natural, organic and locally produced foods. “The Flying W out of Olathe has fresh milk, cheese and ice cream,” Whittlesey said. “Indian Ridge Farm and Bakery from Norwood will have homemade organic bread, free-range eggs and chicken, and goat milk and cheese. Our ranch offers grass fed buffalo and elk meat.” Whittlesey owns and runs Highwire Ranch out of Hotchkiss.Local and regional artisans also have booths, selling crafts and jewelry. Dave Butts, manager of the farmers market, owns and operates Mountain Breeze Soapworks on his land above town.
“My work has evolved into much more than a hobby,” said Butts. “I have a couple dozen different soap scents; all [my soaps] are made using fresh cow and goat milk from local farms and all natural organic oils and herbal scents. Mountain Breeze Soapworks also offers lotions, natural insect repellents, sun lotions, candles, and more.
“The Ridgway Farmers Market is well supported by the local community,” Whittlesey said. “It is a place for people from different communities all over the region to gather and share what they have to offer. This year we want to provide a more social atmosphere, so it is not just about shopping – it is a social event. We will have music and a tent and tables set up for people to gather.”So if you’re in the market for some fresh vegetables, organic meats or a little live music and socializing, make your way to the Ouray County Fairgrounds every Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon, now through September, to enjoy the bounty the market provides.