Local food thrives in cold season at Winter Farmers’ Market

Linc Thomas

Fort Collins has a thing for local and fresh food no matter what time of year.

three jars of fermented food.
Turtle Mountain Fermentery is putting a new look on kombucha and other fermented products. The DiSanto sisters, founders of Turtle Mountain Fermentery, love getting feedback from customers and other vendors so they can further improve their craft. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

The Winter Farmers’ Market began its season Nov. 3 at the Opera Galleria in Old Town, presented by NoCo Food. More than 40 vendors selling locally made goods and produce will participate in the market from November to April.

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The Larimer County Farmers’ Market launched in 1975 by the Colorado State University Master Gardeners and Extension Service, which still operates the market today. The market provides opportunities for low-income individuals to purchase fresh and local fruits and vegetables with “SNAP” and the “Double Up Food Bucks” incentive programs. 

Alison O’Connor, master gardener and co-coordinator of the LCFM, explained that the market also provides a place for vendors to grow their business or hone in business practices.

“Since we’re part of CSU Extension, our mission is outreach education,” O’Connor said. “We’ve found that many small businesses have gotten their start at our market. The market promotes community development and is a spot for socialization, gathering and learning more about your neighbors and the community.”

“Customers get to eat the freshest food and meet the farmers who grew them. This is huge. There is the statement ‘know your farmer, know your food’. This is represented every Saturday at the market.” –Alison O’Connor, Master Gardener and co-coordinator of the LCFM.

Of those vendors taking advantage of a connection to the community was Turtle Mountain Fermentary, a Fort Collins-based kombucha taproom. Turtle Mountain Fermentery started in 2014 with the goal to provide the community with a delicious and healthy, fermented food and drink, according to their website. Turtle Mountain Fermentary can be found all over Fort Collins, including Odell Brewing, The Bean Cycle, Happy Lucky’s Tea House, Fort Collins Co-op and Avogadro’s Number. 

The Winter Market by the Northern Colorado Food Cluster is held at the Opera Galleria 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
-Nov. 17
-Dec. 1, 15 and 22 
-Jan. 12 and 26
-Feb. 9 and 23
-March 9 and 23
-April 6

Sunray Natural Farm brought an array of loose-leaf organic teas, incorporating herbs grown on their homestead farm. The Fort Collins farm embodies permaculture and biodynamic focuses, which means the farm uses a mixture of design intensive and artistic farming styles. During the Fall Festival, Sunray Natural displayed over 30 blends of specialty herbal teas and over 30 unique varieties of spice blends. Unfortunately, their farm-raised puppies were not at the Farmers’ Market, but can still be found at their homestead farm. 

Miller Farms, a well-known Colorado farm, offered loads of fresh produce to the Fall Festival fun. Since the early 1950s, the Miller family has grown vegetables on the Front Range and delivered fresh produce to the community. Miller Farms is always welcoming tours and is currently in their own Fall Festival, complete with corn mazes, harvest-your-own vegetables and farm animals.

“The majority of our customers live within a five-mile radius of the market,” O’Connor said. “There is a huge diversity of people who attend – everything from young families to college students to those who are retired. This was my 13th season and I’ve seen kids grow up and start college. It’s a fun environment.”

Linc Thomas can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @lincthomas1.