MONTROSE – The Montrose Farmers Market, which is moving back downtown and opening on May 14, is a mainstay to some local producers, whose sales have grown every year.
The market moved from the downtown last year and was held at Oxbow Crossing shopping center on the south side of town, but is coming back to Centennial Plaza and South First Street this year, said market director Frances Baer.
The market, now in its 35th year, is expanding to include Thursday afternoons during Main in Motion from June through August, in addition to regular Saturday morning markets from May through October, she said. Starting in June, the market will also be open on Wednesdays, through September.
The market originally started out at the Montrose Historical Museum at the old train depot, then moved to the Montrose County Fairgrounds, and then to downtown, Baer said. It features Western Slope growers, producers, farmers and artisans, and is growing each year.
“Throughout the summer we’ll also have entertainment at Centennial Plaza,” she said. “Live music, judo exhibitions, square dancers, barbershop chorus, chefs’ demonstrations, and master gardeners to offer free classes and handouts.”
Some vendors come every week and some only occasionally, Baer said, and the market offers “community tents” for area nonprofits where they can hand out literature, talk about their program and sell raffle tickets.
Baked goods can’t be sold at the market unless baked in a state-certified kitchen, she said, but groups or organizations can use a certified kitchen in Olathe for a small fee. To get details, see the market’s website www.montrosefarmersmarket.com or contact Bobbi Sale at 323-6006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The market also offers co-op tents for people who want to try out the market without the expense of investing in a tent and signs.
“We had a high school girl who wanted to sell eggs, started out as a co-op, then moved up and bought her own tent,” Baer said.
Another vendor sold out of strawberries three times, a sure sign of high demand.
“We can help them decide if they want to grow more,” she said.
In addition to helping new vendors and nonprofits, the market is also encouraging more youth groups to get involved, she said.
Vendor applications, also available on the website, are still being accepted, Baer said, with about 35 signed up so far for this year. To learn more, contact Baer at email@example.com or call 209-8463.
Baer said opening day will feature early season produce such as lettuce, spinach, radishes, asparagus and rhubarb, and greenhouse crops like potted and fresh herbs.
“We’ll also have soaps and body products, jewelry, wine and wine tastings, honey, handmade arts and crafts, fresh eggs, and a lot more,” she said.
One perennial vendor, Straw Hat Farms on Solar Road, offers a variety of vegetables and homemade dog biscuits, but their main crop is garlic, 10 varieties grown on an acre of land, said Karen Byler, who runs the operation with husband Chet.
Byler said online garlic sales are getting better each year from their website, www.strawhatfarms.com, but the market provides between 60 and 70 percent of their business.
“We’re happy we’ve stuck with the Montrose market and we think it will be another good year,” she said.
Like many, but not all vendors, Straw Hat Farms is certified organic, and also has a state-certified kitchen where Karen Byler whips up whole-grain breads, granola, pies, cinnamon rolls, cookies and other baked goods.
Byler said she’s been involved with the market for eight years, and even though the Oxbow Crossing experience was a good one, moving downtown was a wise move.
“I think it belongs downtown,” she said. “I hope it’s good for the revitalization (of downtown), and now that the market’s big enough, I think people will find it.”
Kim Johnston, owner of Mim by Kim, is also looking forward to moving back downtown to sell her goats milk soaps and body products that include body butters, lotion bars, lip balm, essential oil bath salts, and even dog soap.
“I’ve got you covered head to toe,” Johnston said, and sales are good. Mim stands for “made in Montrose,” she added.
“This is my fifth year, and despite the economy, my sales continue to improve every year,” she said. “I make a good product and get a lot of testimonials when people see their skin improve.”
Soap from goat’s milk is her main product, and Johnston gets the milk from her own herd.
The herd has increased lately with the birth of two sets of triplets, and Johnston said she promised to bring some baby goats to the market’s opening day, as she does every year.
“The farmers market is a mainstay for me,” Johnston said. “It’s seasonal, and I make what I can in six months, but every year I meet new people and it’s exciting to have them try my stuff and then come back the next week.”
High Wire Ranch of Hotchkiss is another mainstay at the Montrose market, and owners Dave and Sue Whittlesey will again offer grass-fed elk and buffalo meat, but also something new: duck eggs. Sue Whittlesey said the market is also letting her resell frozen salmon and halibut caught in Alaskan waters.
The market will continue this winter with sales held in the back of Creative Corner at the corner of Uncompahgre Avenue and East Main Street; the last winter market of the season will be held there this Saturday.
This past year the winter market expanded to twice a month instead of monthly, Baer said, but there’s room to grow in the winter months as well.
“We would like to get a bigger (indoor) place and expand to more weeks this winter,” she said.