By Pauline Benetti
Pagosa Farmers Market
Before summer arrives, the Pagosa Farmers Market will be online. Several good questions might be asked at this point, for example, what will be sold? Is it not true that vegetables are only available around here in any quantities in late June at best? Why does the market want to go online? Who will sell? What’s the purpose? What will happen to the summer Saturday market? These are all good questions to be answered here as quickly as possible.
First, let it be known that the Saturday live market will continue as usual in its normal location at the east end of town collocated with the East Side Market. What we do not know yet is the extent of COVID precautions that will be required and we won’t know that for a while. We will continue to accept SNAP cards and continue to hand out a $20 value of Double up Bucks for the first $20 SNAP purchase, essentially doubling purchasing power.
It is true that local vegetables are not ready until late June with the exception of a very few greenhouse growers who cannot produce the quantity needed to operate an online system. So, market management has come up with a plan to expand the classes of goods that will be offered.
We continue with the growers and producers involved in the food supply. Growers need no explanation; we simply need more people doing it, whether as small operations with a few acres or as backyard operations with even less space. The Small Growers Coop at the market will continue to be available to our backyard growers when they have extra food to sell but not enough to support a solo operation.
With the producer class, we begin to expand our thinking to suggest new products ideally suited for sale online. In this class are those smart folks who have taken the CSU Cottage Food Production classes and have their certificates. They are able to preserve, dry and bake food in their own kitchens for sale directly to the consumer. The possibilities are near endless: breads, biscuits, scones, cookies, tortillas, candy, dried pasta, dry baking mixes, fruit pies, empanadas and tamales, jams, jellies, preserves and honey. A search of “cottage food products” will serve as an inspiration for additional ideas that treated creatively will sell. People love homemade products.
Also included in the producer class of vendors are those who raise livestock and have chickens, rabbits, pork and USDA beef for sale. Cattle ranching is a major business in this county, but the beef is either sold on the hoof or butchered for family consumption. With a year-round online venue, ranchers would find profit in raising good-quality beef, processing through a USDA facility and selling locally. The online market is a simple and convenient way to display and sell these perishable products.
This brings us to a class of vendors for whom the Saturday market is not appropriate but the online market is now actively promoting who are immune to the seasons and very well represented in our community — the makers, whether they are artist, artisan or crafters, work with their hands and minds and imagination to make aesthetically pleasing or useful or fun items. The online market offers a perfect venue for art (oil, acrylic, watercolor, feather, sculpture, photography), for artisan skills (carving, quilting, sewing, ceramics, jewelry) and for crafts (fine soap, body lotion, bead work). Our objective is to have the huge variety of local makers on display for local and visitor viewing.
The reason for an online market? With an online venue, the folks who grow and produce food can plan to increase their production and sell year-round. The boost to production will have the effect of increasing the local food supply and year-round sales will boost the bottom line of those so engaged.
Our makers will appeal especially, but not exclusively, to the tourist who wants to take back home something of Pagosa that travels well. The end result is a more resilient and economically vital community. It is this scenario that interests the Town of Pagosa Springs and the Pagosa Springs Area Tourism Board and has prompted both organizations to support the Pagosa Farmers Market, both the live and online venues.
Preregistration for the online market is open right now at: https://www.pagosafarmersmarket.net/vendreg. Questions or comments can be sent to email@example.com.