Local markets celebrate 10 years

This summer marks 10 years of the Foodshed Alliance Farmers Markets in Buena Vista and Salida. With free live music and local vendors, the markets are more than just a place to score some locally grown food. They have become a way for community members to connect on a weekly basis.

Buena Vista kicks off each weekend during the summer with a farmers market at South Main Town Square from 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays. During July and August, it coincides with the mid-summer concert series held at The Beach, the outdoor stage along the Arkansas River. This week the Beach will feature Colorado band Whitewater Ramble.

Musicians and vendors share the town square, and visitors can stroll through about a dozen or so booths of handmade goods, food and drinks as the afternoon heat drops and the typical thunderclouds roll away.

Seth Roberts of Weathervane Farm in Buena Vista has been a staple at the weekly market since it began 10 years ago. The open-air markets in Buena Vista and Salida make up a majority of the farm’s sales. (photo by John Cameron).

For all 10 years, Seth Roberts of Weathervane Farm in Buena Vista has sold his organic produce at the farmers markets in Chaffee County and has become a fixture at the weekly events. The seasonal produce farm in Buena Vista makes a majority of its annual sales through the open-air markets. Their produce stand is the largest at both the Salida and Buena Vista markets.

“We have definitely seen an increase in sales over the years that we have done this,” said Roberts, while weighing produce for customers. To keep up with the busy season, Weathervane Farm enlists the help of about 20 people, including family members and volunteers.

Each week markets see 200-300 visitors in both Buena Vista and Salida. Through the Foodshed Alliance, vendors have the ability to accept credit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is a way to provide access to healthy food sourced from within 100 miles of Chaffee County, said Ashley Ahlene, market manager for the Foodshed Alliance. The market also participates in Double Up Food Bucks Program, which doubles the spending power of anyone using their EBT card.

Following the market in Buena Vista is a similar market held in Salida from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays during the summer and into the fall. The weekly event is held in Alpine Park at the corner of E and Fifth streets. The location is within easy walking distance of downtown Salida.

The Salida Farmers Market is an easy choice for families looking for something to do, especially if they have young kids. A playground next to the market and the monthly Mountain Meetup Playgroup (scheduled to meet again Aug. 12) will keep them entertained.

Typically, about two dozen vendors set up shop. One of the newest vendors is Fizzgiggs, which began selling its selection of handmade children’s toys and wearables this summer. The booth by Salidans Amy Detmer and Mindy Babcock is named after a Muppet character, Detmer said, because they want to represent an explosion of creativity.

The Salida Farmers Market is where some local businesses got their start before moving on to brick and mortar locations. Salida’s Café Dawn began in 2008 as a simple coffee stand before becoming the well-known cafe at the corner of First and G streets. “We had to run a long extension cord across the basketball court; which was the closest outlet at the time,” said Dawn Heigele. She still operates a booth in the same location each summer in order to be part of the market where they got their start.

Since the markets began in Salida and Buena Vista, they have hosted more than 400 vendors from one season to the next. Ahlene estimates that the markets have generated a combined $2 million in total revenue for Chaffee County in the last 10 years.