DENVER, CO – 11 May, 2016 – Harvest season in Colorado means endless opportunities for fresh, local goodies, farm adventures and festivals. In Colorado, farms and ranches are a celebration of a history that’s almost as rich and fertile as the soil itself. So, while you’re perusing road-side stands or trying your hand at ranch life, take the opportunity to learn a little more about the origins of the produce by traveling old Mormon roads leading to third-generations ranches, or cultivating ancient crops revitalized by local ranchers at the base of ancestral ruins. From small towns to thriving metropolitan centers, in search of produce or cheese, meat or mushrooms, follow your taste buds for a tour of heritage and history across the state’s seven unique cultural and agricultural regions.
The Front Range
The gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado’s Front Range boasts high-elevation beer, wine and mead, cheeses, berries, apples and beef. Make your way to the Fairgrounds Park Farmer’s Market, in Loveland, to stock up on fresh and tasty picnic items and hiking snacks before hitting the trail. At the Greeley Farmer’s Market, learn a new recipe during demonstrations by local chefs, and gardening information from local CSU Master Gardeners. Bison once roamed Northern Colorado’s prairies en masse, and they’re making a comeback at places like the Rocky Plains Bison Ranch. For a more urban endeavor, swing by the Boulder Farmer’s Market, recently named “Best in the US” by readers of USA Today and 10Best. While you’re there, feast on delicious produce from Pastures of Plenty. Celebrate the young and the old with a stop by the oldest farmer’s market in Northern Colorado—the Larimer County Farmer’s Market—for traditional produce and modern flare, like the all-natural moustache wax from Colorado Beard Co.
Denver Metro Area
While Denver may be the urban heart of Colorado, it holds true to its ranching and farming roots with numerous markets and restaurants featuring locally-sourced goods from all over the state. Every Saturday, check out the Golden or Arvada Farmer’s Market for items from local farms. At Union Station, a downtown Denver hub for local crafts in a historic building, enjoy distilled-in-Colorado spirits, 30 rotating regional draft beers, hand brewed and locally roasted coffee and—during “community hour” at the Kitchen Next Door—mingle with local Denver-ites in their natural habitat. At The Source, an artisan food market in an 1880’s brick foundry, food artisans and retailers offer everything from freshly baked bread to craft cocktails.
The prairies of Northern Colorado are as vast and expansive as the learning and imbibing opportunities they offer. At the Logan County Farmer’s Market, stock up on gourds, melons and sweet corn. The bison from Heart Rock Ranch are free of any growth hormones, and the jerky they sell is some of the best. The northwest is known for sweet things, like Stahely Melon’s watermelon, cantaloupe and sweet corn. For more indulgent eats, head over to Atwood Colorado and stop by the Pawnee Sweet Corn Stand, which has been in operation for almost 20 years. Part of the draw to this tiny stand is the founder Tae Miller, who will snap the corn off of the stalk while you’re waiting, and an honor box allows you to grab a bag, leave the money, and head on your way even after hours. In Elizabeth, stop by Falkor Farms for a bit of alpaca love and learn about their innovative, aquaponic approach to gardening. Every Saturday from June through September, the Farmer’s and Flea Market in Elizabeth is open for local fare and treats.
Head to Colorado wine country, where, along with vino, you’ll find some of the states most stunning and abundant wildlife. At the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), Rock Bottom Ranch is the first farm in Colorado to be certified as Wildlife Friendly, a farming approach that prioritizes habitat conservation alongside agricultural production. And, their chicken, duck, eggs, lamb and pork are all pasture-raised, GMO-free and Animal Welfare Approved. For a sampling of the region’s best, head over to the Courthouse in Meeker for their one-Saturday-a-month market. Tap your toes to some great folksy rock bands at the Grand Valley Farmer’s Market on Thursday evenings in downtown Grand Junction, essentially a 15-week community event dedicated to local feasts, and helping you transform your market goodies into gourmet dishes like chicken liver pate with grilled crostini and Bing Cherry Balsamic relish or heirloom tomato salad with Feta cheese and olive oil. The Colorado Associate of Viticulture and Enology (CAVE) hosts a tent for Grand Valley wineries highlighting a different winery each week. Pick up Palisade peaches from Forte Fruits, sample Winter Park Honey’s sweet harvest and stock up on handmade bath products from Conifer-based Taspen’s Organics at the Dillon Farmer’s Market. Blue ribbon onions, cream corn and peaches are the belle of the ball from Miller Farms (since 1949) at the Silverthorne Farmer’s Market. After stopping by the Glenwood Springs Farmer’s Market, head to Peach Valley where the area silt contains the mark of ancient oceans and was once home of ancestral Indians. Work a while at Canyon Wren Farms, where WOOFING opportunities abound. On the high plateaus of Western Colorado, the unique climate and soils are prime for producing wonderfully juicy fruit, like the apples, pears, peaches, plums and cherries of Bolton’s Orchards.
South Central Area
In South Central Colorado, venture to Mexican-era communal grazing land where you can still encounter plants and animals—like chiles, Bolito beans and Navajo-churro sheep—that have been around since the 16th century. Pick your own fruit at Happy Apple Farms and enjoy a picnic of freshly roasted chilies, hot dogs and turkey legs; if your visit brings you to the Centennial State in early fall, savor fresh-pressed apple cider. In the heart of the Arkansas River Valley, Colon Orchards—a fourth generation farm and open-air market—boasts bountiful fruits and vegetables, honey, jams and jellies, and, for the whole family, a corn maze, pumpkin patch and hayrides. On scenic HWY 50, venture into Canon City’s Veteran’s Park for a market featuring homegrown and Colorado proud produce and treats. In Alamosa, the Farmer’s Market runs from July through October, and hosts cultural events alongside local and regional produce, baked goods and crafts. In Buena Vista, Jumpin’ Good Goats Dairy is the highest elevation goat dairy in the US, and probably the happiest: these goats get to range on 42 wide open acres of native buffalo grass in clear mountain air, and the resulting ricotta, Rocky Mountain Dawn Chevre, and Cave Aged Camption Mill Cheddar are just a few of the enticing end results. At the South Fork Farmer’s Market, enjoy goods produced in the historic San Luis Valley, where the Capote Ute Indians once thrived.
Part of the allure of Southeast Colorado is that it has retained the heritage and history of the native tribes, trappers and traders that lived and settled the region. At the Pueblo Farmer’s Market, sample the region’s coveted green chiles, and enjoy the evening River Walk. Partake in a cultural staple of the region and celebrate the chiles at the 22nd annual Chile and Frijoles Festival. There’s a tradition in the southeast of Dutch-oven cook-offs, where you can relive the uniquely Western tradition of chuck wagon cooking and eating during the Doc Jones Chuck Wagon Cookoff in La Junta. On Hwy 50, hunt down some of the region’s famous melons in the Rocky Ford area between La Junta and Pueblo, and at Lusk Farms Farmer’s Market, enjoy freshly harvested cantaloupe, cherries, chilies, eggplant, beans, okra and pinto beans. Visit Milberger Farms on the historic St. Charles Mesa for asparagus and Zucchini, Pinto beans and a myriad variety of chilies. In La Junta, the Scaff Brothers’ family legacy and hand-written recipes live on through sauces like their F&J Steak Sauce, which blends spices and fresh ingredients—a sauce popular in the Harvey Houses along the Sante Fe Railroad. Start a new tradition by bringing their cantaloupe salsa home to friends or family as a souvenir.
Famous for farm-to-table dinners and wild food foraging, the southwest has a history of agriculture that dates back to the Ancestral Puebloans who farmed the valleys and mesas of the region, including current-day Mesa Verde National Park. In Mesa Verde Country, modern agriculture is a truly cultural experience, featuring staples grown by the ancients, like Anasazi beans, blue corn meal, and high-altitude winter wheat you can find at the Dolores Food Market. Colorado Life Magazine dubbed Paonia Colorado’s farm-to-table capitol, so take advantage of the region’s rich agricultural assets during a stay at Stone Cottage Cellars. Enjoy the region’s famous peaches during the Palisade Peach Festival, and be sure to take home a hand pie from Palisade Peach. The famous tree-ripe peaches from Kokopelli Farms will leave their mark on your memory. For an innovative use of peaches and other orchard fruits, check out Peach Street Distillery and their pear brandy. Enjoy freshly picked fruit from Paonia’s producers at the Crested Butte Farmer’s Market where, in addition to the world’s best peaches, you can sample local hard ciders. For more Paonia goodies, stop by the Davis Family Farms or the Orchard Valley Farms and Black Bridge Winery, an onsite farm market and winery boasting peaches, cherries, nectarines and four varieties of wine grapes that you can sample at the wine bar, by the river, or at their on-site dog-friendly park. Keeping with the sweet theme, head to the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival for some of the best corn in the state. For a more traditional tour, stop by the Clark Family Orchards—a sixth-generation farm on more than 100 acres—that has a local fruit stand and offers horse-drawn agritours. In Durango, stop at the roadside James Ranch for fresh burgers made entirely from ingredients on-site, and listen to local music in the yard while kids bottle-feed the goats. For more San Juan Mountain magic, visit the Durango Farmer’s Market any (or every) Saturday for a sampling of high-elevation goods. Increase the elevation you eat at with the foraged goods of the Telluride Mushroom Festival, where your mushrooms are made into beer and ice cream during the highly competitive and acclaimed culinary cook off. The festival, which has been around since the 1970s, has drawn Nobel Prize laureates, professors, chemists, doctors and anthropologists alike.
Colorado is a four-season destination offering unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine, and 25 renowned ski areas and resorts. The state’s breathtaking scenic landscape boasts natural hot springs, the headwaters of seven major rivers, many peaceful lakes and reservoirs, 11 national parks and monuments, over 850 farm and ranches that are open to visitors, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet.
For more information or a copy of the 2016 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit www.COLORADO.com or call 1-800-COLORADO.
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