by Elyse Wood, Denver market coordinator at Boulder County Farmers Markets
Joy. This was the emotion felt across Denver’s Union Station plaza on opening day, Saturday, June 4. Excitement was high (with a touch of nerves) as vendors pulled up early to unload and set up their booths for the first market of the inaugural season. Partners and media engaged in the center of the unfolding market for a locally sourced Snooze breakfast while learning what nuances a growers-only market will bring to the heart of downtown Denver.
Union Station Farmers Market has been more than a year in the making. The planning process was a meticulous puzzle with new obstacles emerging by the day. We used our collective knowledge as a team to put the pieces together.
A huge piece in making this market happen was winning a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant. The grant is helping with our startup costs and marketing needs, enabling us to focus our energies on vendor selection and market operations. The end goal, of course, is to create a self-sustaining market that offers a successful distribution point for our local growers, ranchers and food producers.
In an effort to ensure success, we also ran a one-time Harvest Market in October 2015 to test the waters. It showed us the realities of hosting a market in an urban setting, which brings unique characteristics to our operations. Challenges include loading in and out, limited parking, high pedestrian traffic, tight quarters, and of course our beloved Rockies games. Ultimately, the Harvest Market revealed to us the potential success of a full-season market at Union Station.
The most enjoyable part of the process for me was getting to know all the vendors. My goal was to try to represent not only Denver-area growers and producers, but the delicious variety Colorado agriculture has to offer as a whole. I personally love a good narrative. Each vendor adds their own craftsmanship and story to the market – be it urban mushroom growing out of shipping containers; restorative ranching in the fire-ravaged Black Forest; or a teaching farm at a Lakewood technical school. These vendors are the faces of farming, and we’re delighted each farm and business can share the fruits of their labor, and their stories with you, Denver.
Following an exciting and successful grand opening, , the real work starts as we create the culture, identity and community of the Union Station Farmers Market. The journey has just begun! Join us: The Union Station Farmers Market will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 22, 2016.