Longest-serving farmers market vendor has seen town, market evolve

A seasoned vendor at the Larimer County Farmers’ Market in Fort Collins, Barbie Lytle has watched the market grow for 27 years.

Lytle sells farm-fresh fruit at the market. She works for C&R Farms, a family-run fruit orchard best known for quality stone fruit including peaches, cherries, and apples. which has sold to the Larimer County Farmers Market for about 27 years. Owned by Clare and Rob Talbott, C and R farms is one of the longest standing vendors at the farmers market according to the Colorado State University Extension for Larimer County.

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Lytle initially got involved with C&R Farms when they bought the land they own today. She has been involved in markets in towns along the Front Range including Denver, Colorado Springs and Wyoming. She continues to sell at nine markets per week.

C&R Farms is active in the community. In the past 25 years, C&R have provided tree-ripened fruit to Rotary Clubs, schools, the Knights of Columbus and other organizations as a fundraiser to help local communities. Located in Palisade, Colorado, C&R Farms has sold its fruit to retailers, wholesalers and organizations for the past 30 years and has been a vender at the Larimer County Farmers Market for much of that time.

Starting in 1975, The Larimer County Farmers’ Market is the oldest farmers market in Northern Colorado. Colorado State University Master Gardeners in Larimer County volunteer their time to run the market in Old Town Fort Collins.

The market is held on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon at the Larimer County courthouse located on 200 S. Oak St., Fort Collins. At the market, customers can ask master gardeners questions and learn about food safety, preparation and preservation on site. Local vendors grow and produce all of the products offered at the market. The market is dog friendly and features live music.

When C&R Farms first came to sell at the market The Master Gardner’s ran the market on a much smaller scale, Lytle said.

“Two men would stand in a driveway and direct you around the corner,” Lytle said. “One volunteer would blow a whistle at 8 a.m. and then customers could enter to buy. A whistle also ended the market.”

The market has grown since then to include more vendors and caters to more of the Fort Collins population.

“Today it takes a full staff of volunteers and directors to run the market, as it has changed so much in philosophy and vendor numbers,” Lytle said. “These people work hard!”

The demographics of the customers as well as the taste of those customers have also changed over time, Lytle said.

“Over the years, and with some changes in the market location, the crowds have changed,” Lytle said. “The market used to see many more middle aged to older folk but again, there are more markets around Fort Collins now.”

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Now, many young families visit the market. Its appeal extends beyond just a place to buy food. It is a destination for bikes, coffee and leisure. It is lots of fun because it has “a laid back atmosphere in a downtown kind of way,” Lytle said.

C&R Farms have been consistent vendors for the Larimer County Farmer’s Market over the years.

“We keep coming back because it is a nicely coordinated and well-run market, with lots of nice folks who have been faithful customers over the years,” Lytle said.

The Larimer County Farmers’ Market is a good location for the sale of local products and is a popular place to go for the locals.

“The Larimer County Farmers’ Market is a good place to sell product,” Lytle said. “It is a popular spot to spend a Saturday morning buying food and socializing.”

Over the years, Lytle has met and built relationships with customers and fellow vendors at the farmers market.

“I have met many wonderful people over the years, watched children grow up and have children of their own, “Lytle said. “All of us who work together as a team at market have maintained many friendships with customers and fellow vendors through the years. I look forward to seeing familiar faces each market day.”

Lytle believes that people sell at farmers markets to bring attention to quality product. The concept of a farmers market reaches beyond just the buying and selling between the vendor and the customer. The sale can benefit the local economy as well as the minds of the vendor and the customer.

“Customers buy, try and come back for more,” Lytle said. “The consumer is top priority and farmers markets are the best way to safely obtain fresh, tasty and healthy food directly from the farmer or producer.”

Vendors sell a wide range of products including fresh fruit and vegetables, breads and pastries, honey and cheese, value added products, meat and poultry, flowers and herbs and handmade apparel by various artists at the Larimer County Farmers’ Market.

Aside from the products, the customers at the market buy something that does not require money. Vendors sell and customers buy a peace of mind according to Lytle. This peace of mind comes from “knowing that you are selling to appreciative and educated consumers.”

According to Lytle, this peace of mind extends to the customer as well when they are supporting local farmers and producers in “obtaining the finest, freshest and healthiest from the best of the best.”

C&R Farms, represented by Lytle has been a faithful vendor at the Larimer County Farmers’ Market for over 20 years. Due to their long-standing time at the market, they have unique insights about the growth of the market and the market’s impact on vendors and the community of Fort Collins.