New co-op farmers market at 2 sites near Westside

       Looking for ways to put local art and food in front of the public, the Colorado Farm and Art Market Cooperative is now offering two outdoor markets near the Westside.
       The latest market opened outside the Briarhurst restaurant in Manitou Springs Wednesday, July 14. The initial market had its fifth Saturday near the downtown, outside the old city gasworks off Colorado Avenue just east of I-25, July 10.
       At both venues, there are more than 20 booths, offering locally grown produce, prepared food and various artists' offerings.
        President of the cooperative board is Jay Frost, who runs the Fountain Creek Ranch his father started in 1959. Mostly a cattle ranch, five acres have been put in cultivation for growing organic produce (meaning no pesticides are used), he said.
        Along with board secretary Dan Hobbs, Frost got involved about four years ago in plans for the new Downtown Arts District Association (DADA) near the planned Confluence Park. Related discussions with area chefs and artists led to the market idea; also, the city liked the idea in conjunction with the new park, added Hobbs, who cultivates 10 organic acres on his Gabacho Farm in Avondale, east of Pueblo.
        An outdoor, seasonal market is “starting kind of small,” he said, but noted that the long-range plan is for DADA to purchase the 36,000-square- foot gasworks building (former home of Colorado Springs Utilities' Gas Division), which would open up space for lofts and artists' workspaces - not to mention an indoor, year-round market.
       The Manitou Springs market idea came about with support of the Briarhurst and different Manitou merchants, led by Wayne and Erin Chambers, owners of Manitou Natural; and Chip Johnson, chef at the Briarhurst. “There seemed to be a lot of interest,” Hobbs said. “And the Briarhurst appealed to us.”
       The restaurant is donating the space on its grounds for the market, he said.
       The Manitou market, featuring most of the vendors who work the Saturday gathering, will run weekly through the end of September. “We will extend the dates next year if it goes well,” Hobbs said.
       Both markets run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and all vendors (arts, concessions and fresh food) are juried in based on quality, according to Dyan Del Gaudio, the market manager. A rule for the produce is that the food has to be Colorado-grown. Organic growing is desirable but not required, she said.
       In contrast to Old Colorado City's outdoor market that has operated for 17 years on summer Saturdays - in which vendors rent individual space from the non-profit Pikes Peak Farmers Market - the Farm and Art Market Cooperative is set up as an entity jointly owned by producers/vendors and consumers.
       The co-op's nine-member board is “pretty diverse,” Frost said. “It's designed to be real responsive to vendors and consumers.”
        Another contrast with the new market is the “locally grown” aspect. Asked about this point, Frank Schmidt, president of the Pikes Peak Farmers Market (which operates three area outdoor markets in all), said his vendors' produce is also locally grown - the only difference being that in some cases “middle men” may buy the produce from a Colorado grower.
       In addition to the goal of selling his goods, Frost said he also sees a philosophical purpose for the markets - by offering the opportunity for better understanding “between urban and rural communities.”

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