Cheerful Saturday mornings spent filling a basket with local produce at the Durango Farmers Market do not have to end with final market day on Saturday. There are opportunities to buy fresh winter-grown produce and regionally made goods at a few off-season markets.
Growing in the snowSome local farms have long-lifespan veggies like potatoes and onions freshly picked and ready to sell during the wintertime. Thanks to technical ingenuity such as using Christmas lights to warm plants up, farms can keep temperamental bok choy growing in cozy greenhouses when it’s snowing outside. The Christmas light trick is a hack Heidi Rohwer (who credits Seven Meadow Farm for the idea) uses during the cold months at family-owned Rohwer’s Farm in Pleasant View. The farm has three 30-by-27-foot greenhouses for growing spinach, lettuce, kale, bok choy, arugula, Asian greens and other winter-resistant produce.
“They are cold-hardy and (can) take the heat of the sun through the day,” Rohwer said.
The Rohwers started their first greenhouse as an experiment in 2011, but winter farming quickly proved to make financial sense.
“We grow in the winter because we kept getting people saying they wanted a source of local veggies during the (off-season),” she said. “People really appreciate having local produce during the winter when it is harder to get.”
Farming in the volatile Colorado cold doesn’t come without its challenges.
“One day it will be warm, the next day it will be piled high with snow, so it’s a little difficult to be consistent,” Rohwer said. “The hardest part is keeping the plants from going into shock. We have roll-up sides to vent during the day, then as soon as it starts chilling off, we hurry up and close it down.”
Starting in January, Rohwer’s Farms sells produce by the Smiley Cafe in the Smiley Building every other Monday from about noon to 3 p.m.
Shop in the off-seasonRowher’s Farms will also participate in the Thanksgiving and holiday specialty markets hosted by the Durango Farmers Market. The events take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 17 outside in the breezeway at the La Plata County Fairgrounds and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at the fairgrounds inside the Exhibit Hall.
Durango Farmers Market manager Melanie McKinney-Gonzales said she is still in the process of confirming vendors, but there will be regular-season and new booths at each market. The farms and ranches include Unique Le Natural of Aztec, James Ranch Beef, Mocking Crow Farm, RazzMaTazz Berries and others.
The events give local-food lovers a chance to stock up on items such as winter squash, beets, potatoes, carrots, meats, cheeses, pinto beans and other end-of-season items that can be bought in bulk and stored for long durations.
“I picked up a whole 20 pounds of beets last year,” McKinney-Gonzales said.
Both events also serve as an opportunity to knock out some holiday shopping by purchasing handmade goods. The Thanksgiving Market runs in tandem with the Gardenswartz outdoor clothing and gear sale inside the Exhibit Hall and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory sale inside the administrative building.
Regional artisans are more prevalent during the early 1900s-themed Holiday Market. Some of the vendors include Cartwheel Clothing selling handmade children’s threads, Udder Indulgence and Orchard House Farms’ skin care products, and pottery and jewelry booths. There will also be live music and hot breakfast and lunch from Bloom Cafe. McKinney-Gonzales said there currently isn’t a hot food vendor for the November market, but there will be warm drinks from Durango Coffee Co. and cookies and drinks from The Durango Chef.
For those looking for local produce beyond the seasonal markets, McKinney-Gonzales said many suppliers can be found at Durango supermarkets, but the best strategy to have local produce year-round is to develop a relationship with local farmers. That way you can give them a personal call when your sweet potato stash runs out.
“That is the reason we have the farmers market, so people can get to know where the food comes from,” McKinney-Gonzales said. “You strengthen that connection with your food source.”
This story has been updated to more accurately portray the times that Rohwer’s Farm sells produce at the Smiley Building.