Denver After Dawn: best farmers markets
Get your basket and your hat — it’s time to stock up on local produce.
Editor’s note: Throughout the spring, RED’s Denver After Dawn series will look at fun morning and daytime activities in and around the Mile High City.
Along with spring comes the cheerful energy of farmers markets, which typically run from around May to October in the Denver area. Visitors can soak up the morning sun while visiting with local producers, enjoying a cup of coffee and live music and getting their market haul.
To learn more about Denver’s farmers-market scene, RED spoke with chef Jennifer Watson, Ph.D., RDN, lecturer in Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Hospitality. Watson regularly takes students in her plant-based-cooking class to farmers markets to connect with local producers and learn about seasonality.
Here are her top five recommendations for farmers markets to visit this summer.
Boulder County Farmers Market
When: April to November on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: 13th Street between Arapahoe Ave. and Canyon Blvd., Boulder
Enjoy a morning in Boulder at one of Colorado’s longest-standing farmers markets, established in 1987 with the goal of showcasing only Colorado food producers. The BCFM prides itself on curating a list of local farmers who grow their own fruits and vegetables and produce meats and dairy products to provide customers with the freshest food items. “I hope that people who buy produce in season from a local vendor can tell the difference in the way it tastes and make a connection by talking to the farmer or vendor and learning where their food comes from,” Watson said.
Stop for tea and cake at the Dushanbe Teahouse, nestled in the middle of the market, or dive into the wide variety of prepared-food options before going for a hike up the canyon or at Chautauqua Park.
City Park Farmers Market
When: May 13 to Oct. 28 on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: Next to East High School at 2551 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Next to one of Denver’s favorite parks, this market offers a wide range of products, including locally grown produce and meats and some of the hippest food trucks serving such items as vegan fare and arepas. Find a spot under a tree and enjoy a picnic while listening to live music or stay for the chef demo to learn some cooking tips with seasonal produce not often found at the supermarket. “We use this activity in my classes to emphasize seasonality and buying local,” Watson said. “Students get to choose their own vegetable from the market and then cook it at home.”
Union Station Farmers Market
When: June 3 to Sept. 16 on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: The front plaza of Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver
Centrally located, the Union Station Farmers Market is a perfect location to enjoy a morning out on the town while shopping for veggies and connecting with the community. “Students love this activity,” Watson said. “They really enjoy seeing all the vendors, as well as getting out of the classroom. Many of them have never shopped for food outside a grocery store.” This is a great market to get a snack, or you can splurge on brunch and a mimosa at one of the many restaurants in and around Union Station.
Golden Farmers Market
When: June 3 to Oct. 7 on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: The west parking lot of the Golden Library, 1019 10th St., Golden
If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Golden, the Golden Farmers Market is the perfect one. Stop by for local produce, flowers, community and exhibitor booths. This market is close to the Clear Creek Trail, where you can sit, enjoy a snack and listen to the water before going for a stroll down the creek toward downtown Golden or hike toward the Clear Creek White Water Park.
Cherry Creek Fresh Market
When: May 6 to Nov. 4 on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: The parking lot on the corner of 1st and University Blvd., Denver
This market in the heart of Cherry Creek is a chameleon, with offerings changing depending on the day of the month. The Saturday market is called “The Big One” and features locally grown fruit and veggies, farm flowers, local honey, breads and pastries, meats, street food, coffee, packaged foods, food and fashion trucks, houseplants, handcrafted goods, live music and more. It also offers a “Makers and Creators” section with arts and crafts, plus holiday markets.
Farmers markets have become more accessible to different demographics thanks to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and the Double Up Bucks program, which allows folks with EBT cards to double up their money to purchase local produce. This is vital for anyone on a budget who’s looking to eat locally grown, organic fresh produce. Watson takes this into consideration when planning a visit to the market by providing funds for students. “This allows students to try a new vegetable and/or recipe in a low-risk way, using a variety of cooking techniques at home,” she said.
In addition to providing you with fresh ingredients for delicious meals, shopping at farmers markets is a great way to engage in climate action, reducing food miles and food waste, and to help grow our local economy.