Cindy Koder, one of North Denver’s most beloved hair stylists whose radiant inner beauty keeps her regulars grounded, looked around the Highland Farmers Market on opening day, took in a deep breath, and smiled, “This makes me happy.” After months of being cooped up, and then stirred up, in the anxiety ridden aftermath of protest marches and violence, there was indeed something calming about a “normal” Sunday morning in the Highlands.
The Highland Market, part of the Real Farmers Markets operated by Kelly Miller and local merchants on 32nd between Lowell and Meade opened May 31. It is the only North Denver Farmers Market open this summer, as of this writing. In the face of the pandemic, the operation of Farmers Markets has been under intense scrutiny and revisionism, just like every other food & beverage business in the post-Covid reopening era. Luckily the outdoor markets have been deemed “essential” and are opening throughout Colorado spreading some fresh cheer for farmers and shoppers alike. For those who are still jittery about leaving home, online ordering is part of the new norm.
Rules have changed over and over as Farmers Markets tried to get on their feet like newborn calves. Miller noted, “Getting the permits was a challenge to say the least.” At the 11th hour on Saturday, May 30 she got a call from the Department of Health that regulations were being lightened up for the street shopping experience. Originally no one was allowed to select their own produce. No ice and no tablecloths were permitted. Tents were intended to only line one side of the streets and no gift, jewelry, craft or apparel vendors were allowed to sell their wares. That will all change in June, relaxing many of those initial guidelines. What is still required of attendees in the 2020 Farmers Markets include: wearing a mask, following set entry and exit points, social distancing in lines, utilizing hand sanitizer stations, following the arrows to keep the flow of traffic from congregating, as well as no alcohol, common tables or live music (yet).
Miller reflected on the opening day, “My takeaway from today, is it was better than expected for sure. Although we usually have 63-70 vendors compared to 47 this year, we scaled down on purpose for our best, essential vendors in every category. It’s not about the quantity, but the quality.” Gorgeous plump tomatoes, fresh flowers, hand-crafted pastas, exotic pickles, cheese, fresh baked bread and tamales scented the air. Ironically, one of the longest lines at the market was for organic meat that has been a rarity of late. I jokingly suggested to Miller that she sell toilet paper at the next one. You can’t beat one stop shopping when it’s all in stock.
She continued, “The community was so appreciative and gracious. It wasn’t overcrowded like opening days can be. It was enough, but not too much. I want everyone to feel respected and safe. Everyone wore masks, kept their distance and truly played their part in re-entering with care. I truly hope we will be able to reintroduce music and support our local musicians later this summer, but we are looking forward to being a part of the Highland community and bringing farm fresh products to the table.” The Northside is happy, too.
Five Favorite Local Neighborhood Farmers Markets
The Highland Market
32nd & Lowell-Sundays 9 a.m-1 p.m.: May 31-October 11
17th & Wynkoop- Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. June – October 24th
Four Seasons Farmers and Artisans Market:
7043 West 38th Avenue Wheat Ridge, Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday 12-4 p.m.; Open year round
South Pearl Street Farmers Market
Entry on Florida & Pearl St. Sundays, 9 a.m-1 p.m.: May 23-November 15
Colorado Fresh Markets in Cherry Creek
1st & University-Saturdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m: June 6-November 14