Driving across the Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins, one can see many, many old farm houses. Some are dilapidated and vacant. Some are still occupied. Still others are transformed into working farms, businesses or incorporated into a new subdivision as a club or activity house. Our own subdivision, Nelson Farm, was a successful dairy farm. As a transplant, I have this grandiose vision of how beautiful it must have been in the early 20th century for a farmer with a view of the Rocky Mountains. Although many farms are now gone or gobbled up by subdivisions, the spirit of “farm to plate” is still strong and the entrepreneurial spirit of handmade and homegrown goods from goat’s milk soaps to farm-raised tilapia under hydroponic greens brings a new century of farming to the area.
Outdoor Farmer’s Markets are available from June through at least September. 2015 was particularly mild so the markets were open through October. In the summer, there are three to choose from but the most popular is the Saturday market downtown. We tend to shop at the Sunday market that is about a mile from our house. In the winter, the market is in the Opera House. Some vendors are there only in the winter. Some sell at both.
I was pleasantly surprised with the winter market – winter vegetables, mushrooms, cheese galore, a Greek olive oil vendor, several bakers and an assortment of crafters. The winter Saturday market has a variety of vendors, from the Blue Mountain Winery in Berthoud to fresh mushrooms, pastas, breads sauces, along with the usual produce. One of my favorites was Turned Silks. The crafter repurposes sweaters into cool wearable art. An intriguing finds at the winter market was Quatrix which offers beautiful lettuce and herbs and tilapia grown in an aquaponic environment.
If you visit between June and October, summer’s bounty will be at its peak!
More information in case you were curious:
John Nelson, one of the region’s first and most successful dairy farmers, immigrated with his wife in 1871 from Ayrshire, Scotland, to the Fort Collins area. He purchased 240 acres just 3 1/2 miles southeast of town, near the present intersection of Lemay and Swallow, and built a house and planted wheat and oats. There was only prairie stretching in all directions. Some believe the grasshopper plague of 1874-1876 persuaded Nelson to switch to dairying. He brought the first herd of registered Jersey cows into Larimer County. This was the county’s first dairy business, and some historians say it was the first in the state. Building on Nelson’s success, other farmers began dairying operations as well. In the 20th century, a number of local dairies operated profitably, as milk production has remained an important industry. In addition to his dairy operation, Nelson also raised Clydesdale horses for a time. Around 1880, he built a sandstone milk house which has been preserved and is all that remains of the farm.