Boulder County Farmers Markets deliver way more than fresh locally sourced food

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Living along the Front Range provides consumers plenty of opportunities to shop local. Farmers markets provide an abundance of produce from area growers, in addition to delicious concoctions and handmade wares by artists.

A shopper clutches fresh produce at the Boulder County Farmers Market in October 2021. (Kirsten Boyer/Courtesy photo)

Boulder County Farmers Market’s Wednesday night market returned this week, and it’s proving to be the ideal hump-day offering for the senses. From getting in some yoga to taking in live music while picking up dandelion greens to top on the perfect summer salad, the mundane chore of grocery shopping is a thing of the past.

“Wednesday markets are the perfect opportunity for a leisurely dinner, a mid-week shop and a chance to try something new,” said Mackenzie Sehlke, who stepped into the role of Boulder County Farmers Market director in March. “I’m excited to try out Moringa Infusion, Dry Land Distillery, Farm to Summit and so many more.”

Gorgeous bouquets of sunflowers and pumpkins line a table at Boulder County Farmers Market in October 2021. (Kirsten Boyer/Courtesy photo)

Prior to moving to Boulder in 2016, Sehlke helped open the Boston Public Market, Boston’s first indoor, year-round food center.

“I am especially excited about our 2022 market season’s abundance of vendors including farmers, ranchers, prepared food purveyors and local producers specializing in pantry staples like hot sauce, honey, miso, jam, bone broth, pickles, kombucha and skyr,” Sehlke said.

From returning favorites to market newbies, the selection is sure to impress.

“This season we have over 165 vendors — full-time and guest — across our three markets, which means lots of choices, new products and seasonal goodies to enjoy,” Sehlke said.

While the veggie burger has been around for a while now, in recent years more and more options have hit the shelves.

Steve Scott and Melissa Cooper, owners of I Love Heartbeets veggie burgers, vend at Boulder County Farmers Market in March 2022. (Aaron Augsburger/Courtesy photo)

The idea for I Love HeartBeets was born when couple Steve Scott and Melissa Cooper were looking for healthful foods to cook and consume after Scott suffered an injury.

“To help lessen his recovery time, we started researching foods known for their healing properties,” Scott said.

Always fans of meat-alternative burgers, the couple ditched the commonly-used ingredients of soy, pea protein and gluten to craft something truly tasty and pure.

“We really enjoy sharing our products with our customers and demonstrating that not all veggie burgers have to be overly complex and processed,” Scott said. “We use whole organic ingredients. Even our spices are whole seeds, ground for each batch. We believe that less is more. You can pronounce every ingredient we use and nothing is lab-grown.”

I Love HeartBeet’s source for beets, onions and eggs is Black Cat Organic Farm.

A burger made from I Love HeartBeets. (I Love HeartBeets/Courtesy photo)

“We try to utilize the farmers market community of vendors to acquire the high-quality ingredients we need,” Scott said.

All of the ingredients used in the patties are organic and sourced from Colorado suppliers whenever possible.

“We are excited to be full-time vendors at the Wednesday Boulder Farmers Markets,” Scott said. “We love the energy of the farmers market regardless of the day, but the Wednesday market is a little less overwhelming, and some people prefer it to the Saturday market in Boulder.”

Not only can folks buy prepackaged I Love HeartBeets to enjoy at home, a trip to the I Love HeartBeets booth also occasionally offers warm sandwiches to enjoy at the market, often built with other ingredients from BCFM vendors.

Melissa Cooper, who co-owns I Love HeartBeets with her partner Steve Scott, vends at the Wednesday Boulder County Farmers Market in September 2021. (Lauren Joy/Courtesy photo)

“Being a part of the plant-based food revolution helps to illustrate how we can all make more of a positive impact on our changing climate,” Scott said. “The fact that we have taken an idea born from pain and nurtured a product that can help heal all of us is very rewarding.”

I Love HeartBeets can also be found at the Boulder County Farmers Market held in Longmont at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on Nelson Road on Saturdays. Their small-batch burgers are also sold at Black Cat’s farmstand (4975 Jay Road, Boulder), open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday.

In addition to keeping humans satisfied with delicious and juicy burgers, Scott and Cooper have created a line of treats for canines available online.

“Our supplement treats for dogs utilize many of the same ingredients used in our burgers,” Scott said. “Beets and hemp hearts are superfoods and benefit all beings. Our treats are also vegan, which sets them apart as well. They are high in omega oils, which are antioxidants and have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.”

Granola seems to be the OG of health food. But it certainly isn’t just for hippies and hikers anymore.

Lisa Steinkamp, owner of Spark + Honey, pictured in 2022. (Spark + Honey/Courtesy photo)

Spark + Honey — a Boulder-based brand — offers a ton of mouthwatering flavors from Blueberry Lemon Zest to Cinnamon Raisin Flax.

“I spent a lengthy career in the corporate world of marketing and was lucky enough to work on some pretty great brands like Disney, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Baskin-Robbins,” said Lisa Steinkamp, creator of Spark + Honey. “But I always knew I wanted to create something on my own.”

After moving to Boulder in 2017, Steinkamp felt the call to jump into the natural food space.

“Granola was a natural first step for me because I had been making it for years,” Steinkamp said. “My husband is a serious granola fan and eats it almost every day, so I spent years looking for brands with cleaner ingredients and less sugar, without much luck. They were all pretty much sugar and oats. Not what granola was meant to be.”

Lisa Steinkamp, of Spark + Honey, vends at the Boulder County Farmers Market in 2022. (Spark + Honey/Courtesy photo)

Unlike other granolas, Spark + Honey’s is baked for only about 10 minutes — resulting in a product that isn’t completely dehydrated.

“It’s a fresher granola that has the perfect lightly crisp, but not too crunchy taste,” Steinkamp said. “Our customers repeatedly tell us it’s the best-tasting granola they’ve ever had.”

Steinkamp originally began selling her products at Boulder area farmers markets under the name The Campfire Bakery. Once she focused her efforts solely on granola, she relaunched the brand as Spark + Honey.

“Being a vendor at the Boulder Farmers Market is such a great way to stay connected to the community and our customers,” Steinkamp said. “There is no better way to test new products or flavors and get first-hand feedback from customers.

Having a booth at BCFM even allows exposure for folks who reside outside of Colorado.

“There are a lot of tourists also that come to the market, try our granola, then go home and order it online,” Steinkamp said. “I have orders from every state and I attribute most of that to the farmers market.”

Spark + Honey granola on display at Boulder County Farmers Market in 2022. (Spark+ Honey/ Courtesy photo)

BCFM has launched many a successful career in the food industry, including Justin’s Nut Butter and Hope Hummus.

“The most rewarding part of my job so far has been visiting the markets every week and meeting this dedicated group of local food enthusiasts who show up with generosity and excitement in support of our local food system,” Sehlke said.

So much more than a place to purchase Palisade peaches or Early Girl tomatoes, Boulder County Farmers Markets have become places to gather with friends.

“We are excited to have Yoga Pearl offering classes and a roster of talented musicians performing throughout the summer,” Sehlke said.

Folks can sample the local beer garden’s offerings while picking up staples for dinner.

Sehlke is a board member of Boulder Food Rescue, and taking on the role of BCFM’s director is just another way she is helping to combat food insecurity.

An abundance of veggies can be seen at the Boulder County Farmers Market in October 2021. (Kirsten Boyer/Courtesy photo)

“I am especially excited about and proud of BCFM’s robust food access programs at our on-street markets,” Sehlke said, adding that the programs increase “access to high quality, nutritious food for community members at all income levels.”

BCFM farmers and producers are core partners in programs like Double Up Food Bucks, WIC matching and Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon programs.

Giving back and serving those in need, now that’s something to savor.

“All of BCFM’s food access programs aim to provide increased access to delicious local food, dignity and choice in the shopping experience and financial support for both historically excluded community members and farmers,” Sehlke said. “It’s a win-win, reducing food insecurity, supporting producers and creating a multi-generational investment in our community’s well-being.”