TORRINGTON – The popular Torrington Farmer’s Market is back again for another season, starting Thursday at City Park west of downtown.
“This is our third year at City Park,” said Goshen County Extension Educator Caleb Carter. “I don’t know exactly when it started – probably 20 years (ago) or more.
“Up to three years ago, the Thursday market was always” at the Extension Center, located on the grounds of the old University of Wyoming Extension Research Farm west of Torrington, he said. “Three years ago, we moved it to City Park to get back closer to downtown and to find a more central location for it. It was dying.”
Not so any more. While a second market day which was held for years in downtown Torrington every Saturday is now defunct, the Thursday Farmer’s Market is alive and thriving.
In conjunction with its move to City Park, the organizers of the Farmer’s Market also established a Board of Directors three years ago, charged with setting rules and ensuring the market continue to thrive. Since last season, over the winter, the Board has undergone a reorganization and has hired Sheila Muhlencamp to manage the weekly events.
This year’s Farmer’s Market season opens tomorrow (Thursday) from 4 to 6 p.m. And, keeping with tradition, staff from the Goshen County Economic Development Corp. will be on hand, providing “Walking Tacos” to all in attendance. Also returning this year will be a couple of events which premiered during last year’s market.
The Farmer’s Market will host a Watermelon Eating Contest this year in September. In October, as the weather starts cooling, the market will host the return of the popular Soup Cook-Off which debuted last year.
The local market is opening about a month earlier than is standard again this year. Carter said an early growing season prompted the first market to hit City Park in mid-June. This year, after being in contact with several vendors who said they’d be able to provide product this week, the decision was made to open early again.
“It’s important to remember, though, we’re not going to have tomatoes or some of our other, warmer-season crops yet,” Carter said. “We will have a lot of produce vendors, some bringing things like barbecue sauce, peanut butter, we’ll have our honey again.
“We had several vendors who asked if we could open early again and we said, if we had enough to do that, sure, why not?” he said. “We’ve had several vendors who said they would have produce ready, some of our cooler-season crops, radishes, kale, lettuce, spinach and those kinds of things.”
Not to worry, though, Carter said. Fresh tomatoes are just around the corner, probably by sometime mid- to late-July.
The idea of Farmer’s Markets harkens back to ancient times. Farmers, ranchers, craftspeople and more would gather periodically to sell or barter their wares, often in exchange for items they couldn’t produce themselves at home.
Today, Farmer’s Markets often reflect a growing movement, a demand for locally-grown food, Carter said.
“It’s that local-foods movement, the idea of farm-to-plate,” he said. “People want a connection to who’s growing their food. You can see that at all levels of agriculture.”
And that connection is what farmer’s markets are all about, Carter said. People can come to the market and speak directly with the person who grew the vegetables or made the baked goods or other products they’re buying.
“This is all stuff you can go to the grocery store and buy, but you don’t know where it’s made,” he said. “You don’t know where it’s coming from. You don’t have that connection to the person who grew it.”
Usually, too, Carter said, people who grow the food will probably have a good idea how to use their products to prepare meals. Many will even bring recipes along with the produce to share with customers who might not otherwise try a new or unfamiliar product.
“They’ll share that recipe and say ‘buy this leek, then pick up this and this and this and it goes really good together,’” he said. “You can make leek soup, or whatever the recipe is. That’s what people like about it.
“I think it’s about a combination of things,” Carter said. “It’s a connection to the food, the ties to the local vendors, the local person. And you can come back to that same person every week, buy produce from them or buy a product from them, build a relationship. I really like that.”